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By the same Author 

{Hutchinson of London) 


{Routledge & Kegan Paul) 

{Routledge & Kegan Paul) 


by K. R. POPPER 

Volume I 




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It will be seen . . . that the Erewhonians 
are a meek and long-suffering people, easily led 
by the nose, and quick to offer up common 
sense at the shrine of logic, when a philosopher 
arises among them who carries them away . . , 
by convincing them that their existing institu- 
tions are not based on the strictest principles 
of morality. Samuel Butler. 

In my course I have known and, according to my measure, 
have co-operated with great men ; and I have never yet seen 
any plan which has not been mended by the observations of those 
who were much inferior in understanding to the person who took 
the lead in the business. Edmund Burke. 


If in this book harsh words are spoken about some of the 
greatest among the intellectual leaders of mankind, my motive 
is not, I hope, the wish to belittle them. It springs rather from 
my conviction that, if our civilization is to survive, we must 
break with the habit of deference to great men. Great men 
may make great mistakes ; and as the book tries to show, some 
of the greatest leaders of the past supported the perennial attack 
on freedom and reason. Their influence, too rarely challenged, 
continues to mislead those on whose defence civilization depends, 
and to divide them. The responsibility for tliis tragic and 
possibly fatal division becomes ours if we hesitate to be outspoken 
in our criticism of what admittedly is a part of our intellectual 
heritage. By our reluctance to criticize some of it, we may 
help to destroy it all. 

The book is a critical introduction to the philosophy of 
politics and of history, and an examination of some of the 
principles of social reconstruction. Its aim and the line *of 
approach are indicated in the Introduction. Even where it looks 
back into the past, its problems are the problems of our own 
time ; and I have tried hard to state them as simply as I could, 
in the hope of clarifying matters which concern us all. 

Although the book presupposes nothing but open-mindedness 
in the reader, its object is not so much to popularize the questions 
treated as to solve them. In an attempt, however, to serve both 
of these purposes, I have confined all matters of more specialized 
interest to Notes which have been collected at the end of the book. 



Although much of what is contained in this book took shape 
at an earlier date, the final decision to write it was made in 
March 1938, on the day I received the news of the invasion of 
Austria* The writing extended into 1943 ; and the fact that 
most of the book was written during the grave years when the 
outcome of the war was uncertain may help to explain why some 
of its criticism strikes me to-day as mpre emotional and harsher 
in tone than I could wish. But it was not the time to mince 
words — or at least, this was what I then felt. Neither the war 
nor any other contemporary event was explicitly mentioned in 
the book ; but it was an attempt to understand those events and 
their background, and some of the issues which were likely to 
arise after the war was won. The expectation that Marxism 
would become a major problem was the reason for treating it at 
some length. 

Seen in the darkness of the present world situation, the criti- 
cism of Marxism which it attempts is liable to stand out as the 
main point of the book. This view of it is not wholly wrong and 
perhaps unavoidable, although the aims of the book are much 
wider. Marxism is only an episode — one of the many mistakes 
we have made in the perennial and dangerous struggle for build- 
ing a better and freer world. 

Not unexpectedly, I have been blamed by some for being too 
severe in my treatment of Marx, while others contrasted my 
leniency towards him with the violence of my attack upon Plato. 
But I still feel the need for looking at Plato with highly critical 
eyes, just because the general adoration of the ' divine philo- 
sopher ’ has a real foundation in his overwhelming intellectual 
achievement. Marx, on the other hand, has too often been 
attacked on’ personal and moral grounds, so that here the need 
is, rather, for a severe rational criticism of his theories combined 
with a sympathetic understanding of their astonishing moral and 
intellectual appeal. Rightly or wrongly, I felt that my criticism 
was devastating, and that I could therefore afford to search for 
Marx’s real contributions, and to give his motives the benefit of 
the doubt. In any case, it is obvious that we must try to appre- 




date the strength of an opponent if we wish to fight him success- 
fully. (I have added in 1965 a new note on this subject as 
Addendum II to my second volume,) 

No book can ever be finished. While working on it we learn 
just enough to find it immature the moment we turn away from 
it. As to my criticism of Plato and Marx, this inevitable experi- 
ence was not more disturbing than usual. But most of my posi- 
tive suggestions and, above all, the strong feeling of optimism 
which pervades the whole book struck me more and more as 
naive, as the years after the war went by. My own voice began 
to sound to me as if it came from the distant past — like the voice 
of one of the hopeful social reformers of the eighteenth or even 
the seventeenth century. 

But my mood of depression has passed, largely as the result 
of a visit to the United States ; and I am pow glad that, in 
revising the book, I confined myself to the addition of new 
material and to the correction of mistakes of matter and style, 
and that I resisted the temptation to subdue its tenor. For in 
spite of the present world situation I feel as hopeful as I ever did. 

I see now more clearly than ever before that even our greatest 
troubles spring from something that is as admirable and sound 
as it is dangerous — from our impatience to better the lot of our 
fellows. For these troubles are the by-products of what is per- 
haps the greatest of all moral and spiritual revolutions of history, 
a movement which began three centuries ago. It is the longing 
of uncounted unknown men to free themselves and their minds 
from the tutelage of authority and prejudice. It is their attempt 
to build up an open society which rejects the absolute authority 
of the merely established and the merely traditional while trying 
to preserve, to develop, and to establish traditions, old or new, 
that measure up to their standards of freedom, of humaneness, 
and of x'ational criticism. It is their unwillingness to sit back 
and leave the entire responsibility for ruling the world to human 
or superhuman authority, and their readiness to share the burden 
of responsibility for avoidable suffering, and to work for its 
avoidance. This revolution has created powers of appalling 
destructiveness ; but they may yet be conquered. 



I wish to express my gratitude to all my friends who have made it 
possible for me to write this bock* Professor C. G. F. Simkin has not 
only helped me with an earlier version, but has given me the oppor- 
tunity of clarifying many problems in detailed discussions over a period 
of nearly four years. Dr. Margaret Dalziel has assisted me in the 
preparation of various drafts and of the final manuscript. Her untiring 
help has been invaluable. Dr. H. Larsen’s interest in the problem of 
historicism was a great encouragement. Professor T. K. Ew^cr has read 
the manuscript and has made miany suggestions for its impiovcment. 

I am deeply indebted to Professor F. A. von Flayek. Without his 
interest and support the book would not have been published. Pro- 
fessor E. Gombrich has undertaken to see the book through the press, 
a burden to which was added the strain of an exacting correspondence 
between England and New^ Zealand. He has been so helpful that I 
can hardly say how much I owe to him. 

Christchurch, N.Z., April 1^44. 

In preparing the revised edition, I have received great help from 
detailed critical annotations to the first edition kindly put at my 
disposal by Professor Jacob Viner and by Mr, J. D. Mabbott. 

London, August ig^i. 

In the third edition an Index of Subjects and an Index of Platonic 
Passages have been added, both prepared by Dr. J. Agassi. He has 
also drawn my attention to a number of mistakes which I have cor- 
rected. I am very grateful for his help. In six places I have tried 
to improve and correct quotations from Plato, or references to his text, 
in the light of Mr, Richard Robinson’s stimulating and most welcome 
criticism {The Philosophical Review, vol. 60) of the American edition of 
this book, 

Stanford, California, May igyy 

^ Most of the improvements in the fourth edition I owe to Dr. 
William W. Bartley and to Mr. Bryan Magee. 

Penn, Buckinghamshire, May igSi 

The fifth edition contains some new historical material (especially 
on page 312 of volume I and in the Addenda^ and also a brief new 
Addendum in each volume. Additional material will be found in my 
Conjectures and Refutations, especially in the second edition (1965). Mr. 
David Miller has discovered, and corrected, many mistakes. 

Penn, Buckinghamshire, July igSg 


K. R. P. 




Preface to the First Edition vd 

Preface to the Second Edition ....... viii 

Acknowledgements ... ..... x 

Introduction .......... i 

The Spell of Plato 7 

The Myth of Origin and Destiny ...... 7 

Chapter i. Historicism and the Myth of Destiny ... 7 

Chapter 2. Heraclitus . . . . . . . .11 

Chapter 3. Plato’s Theory of Forms or Ideas . . . .18 

Plato’s Descriptive Sociology . . . . . . '35 

Chapter 4. Change and Rest ....... 35 

Chapter 5. Nature and Convention ...... 57 

Plato’s Political Programme . . . . . . .86 

Chapter 6. Totalitarian Justice ....... 86 

Chapter 7. The Principle of Leadership . . . . .120 

Chapter 8, The Philosopher King . . . . . .138 

Chapter 9. JEstheticism, Perfectionism, Utopianism . , *157 

The Background of Plato’s Attack . . . . . .169 

Chapter 10. The Open Society and its Enemies . . . .169 

Notes 202 

Addenda (1957, 1961, 1965) 3^9 

Index of Platonic Passages ....... 345 

Index of Names .......... 347 

Index of Subjects 353 



I do not wish to hide the fact that I can only 
look with repugnance . . upon the puffed-up 
pretentiousness of ail these volumes filled with 
wisdom, such as are fashionable nowadays. For 
I am fully satisfied that . . the accepted methods 
must endlessly increase these follies and blunders, 
and that even the complete annihilation of all 
these fanciful achievements could not possibly be 
as harmful as this fictitious science with its accursed 
fertility. Kant. 

This book raises issues which may not be apparent from the 
table of contents. 

It sketches some of the difficulties faced by our civilization — 
a civilization which might be perhaps described as aiming at 
humaneness and reasonableness, at equality and freedom ; a 
civilization which is still in its infancy, as it were, and which con- 
tinues to grow in spite of the fact that it has been so often betrayed 
by so many of the intellectual leaders of mankind. It attempts 
to show that this civilization has not yet fully recovered from 
the shock of its birth — the transition from the tribal or ‘ closed 
society \ with its submission to magical forces, to the " open 
society ’ which sets free the critical powers of man. It attempts 
to show that the shock of this transition is one of the factors that 
have made possible the rise of those reactionary movements 
which have tried, and still try, to overthrow civilization and to 
return to tribalism. And it suggests that what we call nowadays 
totalitarianism belongs to a tradition which is just as old or just 
as young as our civilization itself. 

It tries thereby to contribute to our understanding of totali- 
tarianism, and of the significance of the perennial fight against 

It further tries to examine the application of the critical and 
rational methods of science to the problems of the open society. 
It analyses the principles of democratic social reconstruction, the 
principles of what I may term ‘ piecemeal social engineering ’ 
in opposition to * Utopian social engineering ’ (as explained 
in Chapter 9). And it tries to clear away some of the ob- 
stacles impeding a rational approach to the problems of social 




reconstruction. It does so by criticizing those social philosophies 
which are responsible for the widespread prejudice against the 
possibilities of democratic reform. The most powerful of these 
philosophies is one which I have called historicism. The story of 
the rise and influence of some important forms of historicism is 
one of the main topics of the book, which might even be described 
as a collection of marginal notes on the development of certain 
historicist philosophies. A few remarks on the origin of the book 
will indicate what is meant by historicism and how it is connected 
with the other issues mentioned. 

Although I am mainly interested in the methods of physics 
(and consequentiy in certain technical problems which are far 
removed from those treated in this book), I have also been 
interested for many years in the problem of the somewhat unsatis- 
factory state of sopie of the social sciences and especially of social 
philosophy. This, of course, raises the problem of their methods. 
My interest in this problem was greatly stimulated by the rise 
of totalitarianism, and by the failure of the various social sciences 
and social philosophies to make sense of it. 

In this connection, one point appeared to me particularly urgent. 

One hears too often the suggestion that some form or other of 
totalitarianism is inevitable. Many who because of their intelli- 
gence and training should be held responsible for what they 
say, announce that there is no escape from it. They ask us 
whether we are really naive enough to believe that democracy 
can be permanent ; whether we do not see that it is just one of 
the many forms of government that come and go in the course 
of history. They argue that democracy, in order to fight 
totalitarianism, is forced to copy its methods and thus to become 
totalitarian itself. Or they assert that our industrial system 
cannot continue to function without adopting the methods of 
collectivist planning, and they infer from the inevitability of a 
collectivist economic system that the adoption of totalitarian 
forms of social life is also inevitable. 

Such arguments may sound plausible enough. But plausi- 
bility is not a reliable guide in such matters. In fact, one should 
not enter into a discussion of these specious arguments before 
having considered the following question of method : Is it within 
the power of any social science to make such sweeping historical 
prophecies ? Can we expect to get more than the irresponsible 
reply of the soothsayer if we ask a man what the future has in 
store for mankind ? 



This is a question of the method of the social sciences. It is 
clearly more fundamental than any criticism of any particular 
argument offered in support of any historical prophecy. 

A careful examination of this question has led nie to the 
conviction that such sweeping historical prophecies are entirely 
beyond the scope of scientific method. The future depends on 
ourselves, and we do not depend on any historical necessity. 
There are, however, influential social philosophies which hold 
the opposite view. They claim that everybody tries to use his 
brains to predict impending events ; that it is certainly legitimate 
for a strategist to try to foresee the outcome of a battle ; and 
that the boundaries between such a prediction and more sweeping 
historical prophecies are fluid. They assert that it is the task 
of science in general to make predictions, or rather, to improve 
upon our everyday predictions, and to put them upon a more 
secure basis; and that it is, in particular, the task of the 
social sciences to furnish us with long-term historical prophecies. 
They also believe that they have discovered laws of history 
which enable them to prophesy the course of historical events. 
The various social philosophies which raise claims of this kind, 
I have grouped together under the name historicism. Else- 
where, in The Poverty of Historicism^ I have tried to argue against 
these claims, and to show that in spite of their plausibility they 
are based on a gross misunderstanding of the method of 
science, and especially on the neglect of the distinction between 
scientific prediction and historical prophecy. While engaged in the 
systematic analysis and criticism of the claims of historicism, I 
also tried to collect some material to illustrate its development. 
The notes collected for that purpose became the basis of this 

The systematic analysis of historicism aims at something like 
scientific status. This book does not. Many of the opinions 
expressed are personal. What it owes to scientific method is 
largely the awareness of its limitations : it does not offer proofs 
where nothing can be proved, nor does it pretend to be scientific 
where it cannot give more than a personal point of view. It does 
not try to replace the old systems of philosophy by a new system. 
It does not try to add to all these volumes filled with wisdom, 
to the metaphysics of history and destiny, such as are fashion- 
able nowadays. It rather tries to show that this prophetic wisdom 
is harmful, that the metaphysics of history impede the applica- 
tion of the piecemeal methods of science to the problems of social 



reform. And it further tries to show that we may become the 
makers of our fate when we have ceased to pose as its prophets. 
In tracing the development of historicism, I found that the 
dangerous habit of historical prophecy, so widespread among our 
intellectual leaders, has various functions. It is always flattering 
to belong to the inner circle of the initiated, and to possess the 
unusual power of predicting the course of history. Besides, there 
is a tradition that intellectual leaders are gifted with such powers, 
and not to possess them may lead to loss of caste. The danger, 
on the other hand, of their being unmasked as charlatans is very 
small, since they can always point out that it is certainly per- 
missible to make less sweeping predictions ; and the boundaries 
between these and augury are fluid. 

But there are sometimes further and perhaps deeper motives 
for holding historjcist beliefs. The prophets who prophesy the 
coming of a millennium may give expression to a deep-seated 
feeling of dissatisfaction ; and their dreams may indeed give 
hope and encouragement to some who can hardly do without 
them. But we must also realize that their influence is liable to 
prevent us from facing the daily tasks of social life. And those 
minor prophets who announce that certain events, such as a lapse 
into totalitarianism (or perhaps into ‘ managerialism ’), are bound 
to happen may, whether they like it or not, be instrumental in 
bringing these events about. Their story that democracy is not 
to last for ever is as true, and as little to the point, as the assertion 
that human reason is not to last for ever, since only democracy 
provides an institutional framework that permits reform without 
violence, and so the use of reason in political matters. But their 
story tends to discourage those who fight totalitarianism ; its 
motive is to support the revolt against civilization. A further 
motive, it seems, can be found if we consider that historicist 
metaphysics are apt to relieve men from the strain of their respon- 
sibilities. If you know that things ar-e bound to happen what- 
ever you do, then you may feel free to give up the fight against 
them. You may, more especially, give up the attempt to control 
those things which most people agree to be social evils, such as 
war ; or, to mention a smaller but nevertheless important thing, 
the tyranny of the petty official. 

I do not wish to suggest that historicism must always have 
such effects. There are historicists — ^especially the Marxists — 
who do not wish to relieve men from the strain of their responsi- 
bilities. On the other hand, there are some social philosophies 



which may or may not be historicistic but which preach the 
impotence of reason in social life, and which, by this anti- 
rationalism, propagate the attitude : ‘ either follow the Leader, 
the Great Statesman, or become a Leader yourself ’ ; an attitude 
which for most people must mean passive submission to the 
forces, personal or anonymous, that rule society- 

Now it is interesting to see that some of those who denounce 
reason, and even blame it for the social evils of our time, do so 
on the one hand because they realize the fact that historical 
prophecy goes beyond the power of reason, and on the other 
hand because they cannot conceive of a social science, or of 
reason in society, having another function but that of historical 
prophecy. In other words, they are disappointed historicists ; 
they are men who, in spite of realizing the poverty of historicism, 
are unaware that they retain the fundamental historicistic preju- 
dice — the doctrine that the social sciences, if they are to be of 
any use at all, must be prophetic. It is clear that this attitude 
must lead to a rejection of the applicability of science or of reason 
to the problems of social life — and ultimately, to a doctrine of 
power, of domination and submission. 

Why do all these social philosophies support the revolt against 
civilization ? And what is the secret of their popularity ? Why 
do they attract and seduce so many intellectuals ? I am inclined 
to think that the reason is that they give expression to a deep- 
felt dissatisfaction with a world which does not, and cannot, live 
up to our moral ideals and to our dreams of perfection. The 
tendency of historicism (and of related views) to support the 
revolt against civilization may be due to the fact that historicism 
itself is, largely, a reaction against the strain of our civilization 
and its demand for personal responsibility. 

These last allusions are somewhat vague, but they must suffice 
for this introduction. They will later be substantiated by histori- 
cal material, especially in the chapter ‘ The Open Society and Its 
Enemies I was tempted to place this chapter at the beginning 
of the book ; with its topical interest it would certainly have 
made a more inviting introduction. But I found that the full 
weight of this historical interpretation cannot be felt unless it is 
preceded by the material discussed earlier in the book. It seems 
that one has first to be disturbed by the similarity between the 
Platonic theory of justice and the theory and practice of modern 
totalitarianism before one can feel how urgent it is to interpret 
these matters. 




For the Open Society {about 4^0 B C) : 

Although only a few may originate a policy, 
we are all able to judge it. 

Pericles of Athens. 

Against the Open Society {about 80 years later) : 

The greatest principle of all is that nobody, 
whether male or female, should be without 
a leader. Nor should the mind of anybody 
be habituated to letting him do anything at 
all on his own initiative ; neither out of 
zeal, nor even playfully. But in war and in 
the midst of peace — to his leader he shall 
direct his eye and follow him faithfully. And 
even in the smallest matter he should stand 
under leadership. For example, he should 
get up, or move, or wash, or take his meals 
. . only if he has been told to do so. In 
a word, he should teach his soul, by long 
habit, never to dream of acting independently, 
and to become utterly incapable of it. 

Plato of Athens. 




It is widely believed that a truly scientific or philosophical 
attitude towards politics, and a deeper understanding of social 
life in general, must be based upon a contemplation and inter- 
pretation of human history. While the ordinary man takes the 
setting of his life and the importance of his personal experiences 
and petty struggles for granted, it is said that the social scientist 
or philosopher has to survey things from a higher plane. He 
sees the individual as a pawn, as a somewhat insignificant instru- 
ment in the general development of mankind. And he finds that 




the really important actors on the Stage of History are either the 
Great Nations and their Great Leaders, or perhaps the Great 
Classes, or the Great Ideas. However this may be, he will try 
to understand the meaning of the play which is performed on 
the Historical Stage ; he will try to understand the laws of 
historical development. If he succeeds in this, he will, of course, 
be able to predict future developments. He might then put 
politics upon a solid basis, and give us practical advice by telling 
us which political actions are likely to succeed or likely to fail. 

This is a brief description of an attitude which I call hisioricism. 
It is an old idea, or rather, a loosely connected set of ideas which 
have become, unfortunately, so much a part of our spiritual 
atmosphere that they are usually taken for granted, and hardly 
ever questioned. 

I have tried elsewhere to show that the historicist approach 
to the social sciences gives poor results. I have also tried to 
outline a method which, I believe, would yield better results. 

But if historicism is a faulty method that produces worthless 
results, then it may be useful to see how it originated, and how 
it succeeded in entrenching itself so successfully. An historical 
sketch undertaken with this aim can, at the same time, serve to 
analyse the variety of ideas which have gradually accumulated 
around the central historicist doctrine — the doctrine that history 
is controllied by specific historical or evolutionary laws whose 
discovery would enable us to prophesy the destiny of man. 

Historicism, which I have so far characterized only in a 
rather abstract way, can be well illustrated by one of the simplest 
and oldest of its forms, the doctrine of the chosen people. T his 
doctrine is one of the attempts to make history understandable 
by a theistic interpretation, i.e. by recognizing God as the author 
of the play performed on the Historical Stage. The theory of 
the chosen people, more specifically, assumes that God has chosen 
one people to function as the selected instrument of His will, 
and that this people will inherit the earth. 

In this doctrine, the law of historical development is laid 
down by the Will of God. This is the specific difference which 
distinguishes the theistic form from other forms of historicism. 
A naturalistic historicism, for instance, might treat the develop- 
mental law as a law of nature ; a spiritual historicism would treat 
it as a law of spiritual development j an economic historicism, 
again, as a law of economic development. Theistic historicism 
shares with these other forms the doctrine that there are specific 



historical laws which can be discovered, and upon which pre- 
dictions regarding the future of mankind can be based. 

There is no doubt that the doctrine of the chosen people grew 
out of the tribal form of social life. Tribalism, i.e. the emphasis 
on the supreme importance of the tribe without which the 
individual is nothing at all, is an element which we shall find 
in many forms of historicist theories. Other forms which are 
no longer tribalist may still retain an element of collectivism ^ ; 
they may still emphasize the significance of some group or col- 
lective — for example, a class — without which the individual is 
nothing at all. Another aspect of the doctrine of the chosen 
people is the remoteness of what it proffers as the end of history. 
For although it may describe this end with some degree of 
definiteness, we have to go a long way before we reach it. And 
the way is not only long, but winding, leading up and down, 
right and left. Accordingly, it will be possible to bring every 
conceivable historical event well within the scheme of the inter- 
^pretation. No conceivable experience can refute it.^ But to 
those who believe in it, it gives certainty regarding the ultimate 
outcome of human history. 

A criticism of the theistic interpretation of history will be 
attempted in the last chapter of this book, where it will also be 
shown that some of the greatest Christian thinkers have repudiated 
this theory as idolatry. An attack upon this form of historicism 
should therefore not be interpreted as an attack upon religion. 
In the present chapter, the doctrine of the chosen people serves 
only as an illustration. Its value as such can be seen from the 
fact that its chief characteristics ^ are shared by the two most 
important modern versions of historicism, whose analysis will 
form the major part of this book — the historical philosophy of 
racialism or fascism on the one (the right) hand and the Marxian 
historical philosophy on the other (the left). For the chosen 
people racialism substitutes the chosen race (of Gobineau’s choice), 
selected as the instrument of destiny, ultimately to inherit the 
earth. Marx’s historical philosophy substitutes for it the chosen 
class, the instrument for the creation of the classless society, and 
at the same time, the class destined to inherit the earth. Both 
theories base their historical forecasts on an interpretation of 
history which leads to the discovery of a law of its development. 
In the case of racialism, this is thought of as a kind of natural 
law ; the biological superiority of the blood of the chosen race 
explains the course of history, past, present, and future ; it is 



nothing but the struggle of races for mastery. In the case of 
Marx's philosophy of history, the law is economic ; all history has 
to be interpreted as a struggle of classes for economic supremacy. 

The historicist character of these two movements makes our 
investigation topical. We shall return to them in later parts of 
this book. Each of them goes back directly to the philosophy of 
Hegel. We must, therefore, deal with that philosophy as well. 
And since HegeH in the main follows certain ancient philosophers, 
it will be necessary to discuss the theories of Heraclitus, Plato 
and Aristotle, before returning to the more modern forms of 

Chapter 2 : HERACLITUS 

It is not until Heraclitus that we find in Greece theories 
which could be compared in their historicist character with the 
doctrine of the chosen people. In Homer’s theistic or rather 
polytheistic interpretation, history is the product of divine will. 
But the Homeric gods do not lay down general laws for its develop- 
ment. What Homer tries to stress and to explain is not the unity 
of history, but rather its lack of unity. The author of the play 
on the Stage of History is not one God ; a whole variety of gods 
dabble in it. What the Homeric interpretation shares with the 
Jewish is a certain vague feeling of destiny, and the idea of powers 
behind the scenes. But ultimate destiny, according to Homer, is 
not disclosed ; unlike its Jewish counterpart, it remains mysterious. 

The first Greek to introduce a more markedly historicist doc- 
trine was Hesiod, who was probably influenced by oriental sources. 
He made use of the idea of a general trend or tendency in his- 
torical development. His interpretation of history is pessimistic. 
He believes that mankind, in their development down from the 
Golden Age, are destined to degenerate^ both physically and morally. 
The culmination of the various historicist ideas proffered by the 
early Greek philosophers came with Plato, who, in an attempt to 
interpret the history and social life of the Greek tribes, and 
especially of the Athenians, painted a grandiose philosophical 
picture of the world. He was strongly influenced in his histori- 
cism by various forerunners, especially by Hesiod ; but the most 
important influence came from Heraclitus. 

Heraclitus was the philosopher who discovered the idea of 
change. Down to this time, the Greek philosophers, influenced 
by oriental ideas, had viewed the world as a huge edifice of which 
the material things were the building material,^ It was the 
totality of things — the cosmos (which originally seems to have been 
an oriental tent or mantle). The questions which the philo- 
sophers asked themselves were, ^ What stuff is the world made 
of ? ’ or ^ How is it constructed, what is its true ground-plan ? 
They considered philosophy, or physics (the two were indis- 
tinguishable for a long time), as the investigation of ‘ nature ’, 
i.e. of the original material out of which this edifice, the world, 
had been built. As far as any processes were considered, they 
were thought of either as going on within the edifice, or else as 



constructing or maintaining it, disturbing and restoring the 
stability or balance of a structure which was considered to be 
fundamentally static. They were cyclic processes (apart from 
the processes connected with the origin of the edifice ; the ques- 
tion ‘ Who has made it ? ' was discussed by the orientals, by 
Hesiod, and by others). This very natural approach, natural 
even to many of us to-day, was superseded by the genius of 
Heraclitus. The view he introduced was that there was no such 
edifice, no stable structure, no cosmos. ‘ The cosmos, at best, 
is like a rubbish heap scattered at random is one of his sayings.® 
He visualized the world not as an edifice, but rather as one 
colossal process ; not as the sum-total of all things^ but rather 
as the totality of all events, or changes, or facts, ‘ Everything 
is in flux and nothing is at rest is the motto of his philosophy. 

Heraclitus’ discovery influenced the development of Greek 
philosophy for a long time. The philosophies of Parmenides, 
Democritus, Plato, and Aristotle can all be appropriately 
described as attempts to solve the problems of that changing 
world which Heraclitus had discovered. The greatness of this 
discovery can hardly be overrated. It has been described as a 
terrifying one, and its effect has been compared with that of ‘ an 
earthquake, in which everything . . seems to sway ’ And 
I do not doubt that this discovery was impressed upon Heraclitus 
by terrifying personal experiences suffered as a result of the 
social and political disturbances of his day. Heraclitus, the first 
philosopher to deal not only with ‘ nature ’ but even more with 
ethico-political problems, lived in an age of social revolution. 
It was in his time that the Greek tribal aristocracies were beginning 
to yield to the new force of democracy. 

In order to understand the effect of this revolution, we must 
remember the stability and rigidity of social life in a tribal 
aristocracy. Social life is determined by social and religious 
taboos ; everybody has his assigned place within the whole of 
the social structure ; everyone feels that his place is the proper, 
the ^ natural ’ place, assigned to him by the forces which rule the 
world ; everyone ‘ knows his place 

According to tradition, Heraclitus’ own place was that of heir 
to the royal family of priest kings of Ephesus, but he resigned his 
claims in favour of his brother. In spite of his proud refusal to 
take part in the political life of his city, he supported the cause 
of the aristocrats who tried in vain to stem the rising tide of the 
new revolutionary forces. These experiences, in the social or 



political field are reflected in the remaining fragments of his 
work.^ * The Ephesians ought to hang themselves man by man, 
all the adults, and leave the city to be ruled by infants . « 
is one of his outbursts, occasioned by the people’s decision to 
banish Hermodorus, one of Heraclitus’s aristocratic friends. His 
interpretation of the people’s motives is most interesting, for it 
shows that the stock-in-trade of anti-democratic argument has not 
changed much since the earliest days of democracy. They said : 
nobody shall be the best among us ; and if someone is outstand- 
ing, then let him be so elsewhere, and among others.’ This 
hostility towards democracy breaks through everywhere in the 
fragments : ^ . the mob fill their bellies like the beasts. . . 
They take the bards and popular belief as their guides, unaware 
that the many are bad and that only the few are good. . . In 
Priene lived Bias, son of Teutames, whose word counts more than 
that of other men. (He said : ‘ Most men are wicked.’) . , 
The mob does not care, not even about the things they stumble 
upon ; nor can they grasp a lesson — though they think they do.’ 
In the same vein he says : ‘ The law can demand, too, that the 
will of One Man must be obeyed.’ Another expression of 
Heraclitus’ conservative and anti-democratic outlook is, inci- 
dentally, quite acceptable to democrats in its wording, though 
probably not in its intention : ' A people ought to fight for the 
laws of the city as if they were its walls.’ 

But Heraclitus’ fight for the ancient laws of his city was in 
vain, and the transitoriness of all things impressed itself strongly 
upon him. His theory of change gives expression to this feeling ^ : 

‘ Everything is in flux he said ; and ‘ You cannot step twice 
into the same river.’ Disillusioned, he argued against the belief 
that the existing social order would remain for ever : ‘We must 
not act like children reared with the narrow outlook “ As it has 
been handed down to us 

This emphasis on change, and especially on change in social 
life, is an important characteristic not only of Heraclitus’ philo- 
sophy but of historicism in general. That things, and even 
kings, change, is a truth which needs to be impressed especially 
upon those who take their social environment for granted. So 
much is to be admitted. But in the Heraclitean philosophy one 
of the less commendable characteristics of historicism manifests 
itself, namely, an over-emphasis upon change, combined with the 
complementary belief in an inexorable and immutable law of 

14 the myth of origin and destiny 

In this belief we are confronted with an attitude which, 
although at first sight contradictory to the historicist’s over- 
emphasis upon change, is characteristic of most, if not all, his- 
toricists. We can explain this attitude, perhaps, if we interpret 
the historicist’s over-emphasis on change as a symptom of an 
effort needed to overcome his unconscious resistance to the idea 
of change. This would also explain the emotional tension which 
leads so many historicists (even in our day) to stress the novelty 
of the unheard-of revelation which they have to make. Such 
considerations suggest the possibility that these historicists are 
afraid of change, and that they cannot accept the idea of change 
without serious inward struggle. It often seems as if they were 
trying to comfort themselves for the loss of a stable world by 
clinging to the view that change is ruled by an unchanging law. 
(In Parmenides and in Plato, we shall even find the theory that 
the changing world in which we live is an illusion and that there 
exists a more real world which does not change.) 

In the case of Heraclitus, the emphasis upon change leads him 
to the theory that all material things, whether solid, liquid, or 
gaseous, are like flames — that they are processes rather than 
things, and that they are all transformations of fire ; the appar- 
ently solid earth (which consists of ashes) is only a fire in a state 
of transformation, and even liquids (water, the sea) are trans- 
formed fire (and may become fuel, perhaps in the form of oil). 

‘ The first transformation of fire is the sea ; but of the sea, half 
is earth, and half hot air.’ ® Thus all the other ‘ elements - 
earth, water, and air — are transformed fire : ‘ Everything is an 
exchange for fire, and fire for everything ; just as gold for wares, 
and wares for gold.’ 

But having reduced all things to flames, to processes, like com- 
bustion, Heraclitus discerns in the processes a law, a measure, a 
reason, a wisdom ; and having destroyed the cosmos as an edifice, 
and declared it to be a rubbish heap, he re-introduces it as the 
destined order of events in the world-process. 

Every process, in the world, and especially fire itself, develops 
according to a definite law, its ‘ measure It is an inexorable 
and irresistible law, and to this extent it resembles our modern 
conception of natural law as well as the conception of historical 
or evolutionary laws of modern historicists. But it differs from 
these conceptions in so far as it is the decree of reason, enforced 
by punishment, just as is the law imposed by the state. This 
failure to distinguish between legal laws or norms on the one 



hand and natural laws or regularities on the other is characteristic 
of tribal tabooism : both kinds of law alike are treated as magical, 
which makes a rational criticism of the man-made taboos as 
inconceivable as an attempt to improve upon the ultimate wisdom 
and reason of the laws or regularities of the natural world : ' All 
events proceed with the necessity of fate. . . The sun will not 
outstep the measure of his path ; or else the goddesses of Fate, 
the handmaids of Justice, will know how to find him.’ But the 
sun does not only obey the law ; the Fire, in the shape of the 
sun and (as we shall see) of Zeus’ thunderbolt, watches over the 
law, and gives judgement according to it, ‘ The sun is the keeper 
and guardian of the periods, limiting and judging and heralding 
and manifesting the changes and seasons which bring forth all 
things. . . This cosmic order which is the same for all things 
has not been created, neither by gods nor by .men ; it always 
was, and is, and will be, an ever living Fire, flaring up according 
to measure, and dying down according to measure. . . In its 
advance, the Fire will seize, judge, and execute, everything.’ 

Combined with the historicist idea of a relentless destiny we 
frequently find an element of mysticism. A critical analysis of 
mysticism will be given in chapter 24. Here I wish only to 
show the role of anti-rationalism and mysticism in Heraclitus’ 
philosophy ^ ‘ Nature loves to hide ’, he writes, and ‘ The 

Lord whose oracle is at Delphi neither reveals nor conceals, but 
he indicates his meaning through hints.’ Heraclitus’ contempt 
of the more empirically minded scientists is typical of those who 
adopt this attitude : ^ Who knows many things need not have 
many brains ; for otherwise Hesiod and Pythagoras would have 
had more, and also Xenophanes. . . Pythagoras is the grand- 
father of all impostors.’ Along with this scorn of scientists goes 
the mystical theory of an intuitive understanding. Heraclitus’ 
theory of reason takes as its starting point the fact that, if we 
are awake, we live in a common world. We can communicate, 
control, and check one another ; and herein lies the assurance 
that we are not victims of illusion. But this theory is given a 
second, a symbolic, a mystical meaning. It is the theory of a 
mystical intuition which is given to the chosen, to those who are 
awake, who have the power to see, hear, and speak : ‘ One must 
not act and talk as if asleep. . . Those who are awake have 
One common world ; those who are asleep, turn to their private 
worlds. . . They are incapable both of listening and of talk- 
ing. . . Even if they do hear they are like the deaf. The saying 


applies to them : They are present yet they are not present. . . 
One thing alone is wisdom : to understand the thought which 
steers everything through everything.’ The world whose experi- 
ence is common to those who are awake is the mystical unity, 
the oneness of all things which can be apprehended only by 
reason : ‘ One must follow what is common to all, . , Reason 
is common to all. . . All becomes One and One becomes All. . . 
The One which alone is wisdom wishes and does not wish to be 
called by the name of Zeus. . . It is the thunderbolt which 
steers all things.’ 

So much for the more general features of the Heraclitean 
philosophy of universal change and hidden destiny. From this 
philosophy springs a theory of the driving force behind all change ; 
a theory which exhibits its historicist character by its emphasis 
upon the importance of ‘ social dynamics ’ as opposed to ^ social 
statics Heraclitus’ dynamics of nature in general and especially 
of social life confirms the view that his philosophy was inspired 
by the social and political disturbances he had experienced. For 
he declares that strife or war is the dynamic as well as the creative 
principle of all change, and especially of all differences between 
men. And being a typical historicist, he accepts the judgement 
of history as a moral one ® ; for he holds that the outcome of war 
is always just ^ War is the father and the king of all things. 
It proves some to be gods and others to be mere men, turning 
these into slaves and the former into masters. . . One must 
know that war is universal, and that justice — the lawsuit — is 
strife, and that all things develop through strife and by necessity.’ 

But if justice is strife or war ; if ‘ the goddesses of Fate ’ are 
at the same time ‘ the handmaids of Justice ’ ; if history, or more 
precisely, if success, i.e. success in war, is the criterion of merit, 
then the standard of merit must itself be ' in flux ’. Heraclitus 
meets this problem by his relativism, and by his doctrine of the 
identity of opposites. This springs from his theory of change 
(which remains the basis of Plato’s and even more of Aristotle’s 
theory). A changing thing must give up some property and 
acquire the opposite property. It is not so much a thing as a 
process of transition from one state to an opposite state, and 
thereby a unification of the opposite states ' Cold things 
become warm and warm things become cold ; what is moist 
becomes dry and what is dry becomes moist. . . Disease enables 
us to appreciate health. . . Life and death, being awake and 
being asleep, youth and old age, all this is identical ; for the one 



turns into the other and the other turns into the one, , . What 
struggles with itself becomes committed to itself: there is a link 
or harmony due to recoil and tension, as in the bow or the lyre 
. . . The opposites belong to each other, the best harmony 
results from discord, and everything develops by strife. . , The 
path that leads up and the path that leads down are identical. • « 
The straight path and the crooked path are one and the same. . . 
For gods, all things are beautiful and good and just ; men, how- 
ever, have adopted some things as just, others as unjust. . . The 
good and the bad are identical.’ 

But the relativism of values (it might even be described as 
an ethical relativism) expressed in the last fragment does not pre- 
vent Heraclitus from developing upon the background of his 
theory of the justice of war and the verdict of history a tribalist 
and romantic ethic of Fame, Fate, and the superiority of the 
Great Man, all strangely similar to some very modern ideas : 
‘ Who falls fighting will be glorified by gods and by men. . • 
The greater the fall the more glorious the fate. . . The best 
seek one thing above all others : eternal fame. . , One man 
is worth more than ten thousand, if he is Great.’ 

It is surprising to find in these early fragments, dating from 
about 500 b.o *5 so much that is characteristic of modern historicist 
and anti-democratic tendencies. But apart from the fact that 
Heraclitus was a thinker of unsurpassed power and originality, 
and that, in consequence, many of his ideas have (through the 
medium of Plato) become part of the main body of philosophic 
tradition, the similarity of doctrine can perhaps be explained, to 
some extent, by the similarity of social conditions in the relevant 
periods. It seems as if historicist ideas easily become prominent 
in times of great social change. They appeared when Greek 
tribal life broke up, as well as when that of the Jews was shattered 
by the impact of the Babylonian conquest There can be little 
doubt, I believe, that Heraclitus’ philosophy is an expression of 
a feeling of drift ; a feeling which seems to be a typical reaction 
to the dissolution of the ancient tribal forms of social life. In 
modern Europe, historicist ideas were revived during the indus- 
trial revolution, and especially through the impact of the political 
revolutions in America and France It appears to be more 
than a mere coincidence that Hegel, who adopted so much of 
Heraclitus’ thought and passed it on to all modern historicist 
movements, was a mouthpiece of the reaction against the French 



Plato lived in a period of wars and of political strife winch 
was, for all we know, even more unsettled than that which had 
troubled Heraclitus. While he grew up, the_ breakdown of the 
tribal life of the Greeks had led in Athens, his native city, to a 
period of tyranny, and later to the establishment of a democracy 
which tried jealously to guard itself against any attempts to 
reintroduce either a tyranny or an oligarchy, i.e. a rule ot the 
leading aristocratic families During his youth, democratic 
Athens was involved in a deadly war against Sparta, the leading 
city-state of the Peloponnese, which had preserved many of the 
laws and customs of the ancient tribal aristocracy. The 
Peloponnesian war lasted, with an interruption, for twenty-eight 
years. (In chapter lo, where the historical background is 
reviewed in more detail, it will be shown that the war did not 
end with the fall of Athens in 404 b.g., as is sometimes asserted .) 
Plato was bom during the war, and he was about twenty-iour 
when it ended. It brought terrible epidemics, and, m its last 
year, famine, the fall of the city of Athens, civil war, and a rule 
of terror, usually called the rule of the Thirty Tyrants ; these 
were led by two of Plato’s uncles, who both lost their hves in 
the unsuccessful attempt to uphold their regime against the 
democrats. The re-establishment of the democracy and of peace 
meant no respite for Plato. His beloved teacher Socrates, whom 
he later made the main speaker of most of his dialogues, was 
tried and executed. Plato himself seems to have been in danger ; 
together with other companions of Socrates he left Athens. 

Later, on the occasion of his first visit to Sicily, Plato became 
entangled in the political intrigues which were spun at the court 
of the older Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, and even after his 
return to Athens and the foundation of the Academy, Plato 
tinned, along with some of his pupils, to take an active ^d 
ultimately fateful part in the conspiracies and revolutions » that 
constituted Syracusan politics. 

This brief outline of political events may help to explain why 
we find in the work of Plato, as in that of Heraclitus, indications 
that he suffered desperately under the political instability and 


CHAPTER 3 : Plato’s theory of forms or ideas 19 

insecurity of his time. Like Heraclitus, Plato was of royal blood ; 
at least, the tradition claims that his father’s family traced its 
descent from Codrus, the last of the tribal kings of Attica 
Plato was very proud of his mother’s family which, as he explains 
in his dialogues (in the Charmides and the Timaeus), was related 
to that of Solon, the lawgiver of Athens. His uncles, Critias and 
Charmides, the leading men of the Thirty Tyrants, also belonged 
to his mother’s family. With such a family tradition, Plato could 
be expected to take a deep interest in public affairs ; and indeed, 
most of his works fulfil this expectation. He himself relates 
(if the Seventh Letter is genuine) that he was ® ‘ from the beginning 
most anxious for political activity ’, but that he was deterred by 
the stirring experiences of his youth. ' Seeing that everything 
swayed and shifted aimlessly, I felt giddy and desperate.’ From 
the feeling that society, and indeed ‘ everything ’, was in flux, 
arose, I believe, the fundamental impulse of his philosophy as 
well as of the philosophy of Heraclitus ; and Plato summed up 
his social experience, exactly as his historicist predecessor had 
done, by proffering a law of historical development. According 
to this law, which will be more fully discussed in the next chapter, 
all social change is corruption or decay or degeneration. 

This fundamental historical law forms, in Plato’s view, part 
of a cosmic law — of a law which holds for all created or generated 
things. All things in flux, all generated things, are destined to 
decay. Plato, like Heraclitus, felt that the forces which are at 
work in history are cosmic forces. 

It is nearly certain, however, that Plato believed that this law 
of degeneration was not the whole story. We have found, in 
Heraclitus, a tendency to visualize the laws of development as 
cyclic laws ; they are conceived after the law which determines 
the cyclic succession of the seasons. Similarly we can find, in 
some of Plato’s works, the suggestion of a Great Year (its length 
appears to be 36,000 ordinary years), with a period of improve- 
ment or generation, presumably corresponding to Spring and 
Summer, and one of degeneration and decay, corresponding to 
Autumn and Winter. According to one of Plato’s dialogues (the 
Statesman)^ a Golden Age, the age of Cronos — an age in which 
Cronos himself rules the world, and in which men spring from 
the earth — is followed by our own age, the age of Zeus, an age 
in which the world is abandoned by the gods and left to its own 
resources, and which consequently is one of increasing corrup- 
tion. And in the story of the Statesman there is^also a suggestion 


that, after the lowest point of complete corruption has been 
reached, the god will again take the helm of the cosmic ship, and 
things will start to improve. 

It is not certain how far Plato believed in the story of the 
Statesman^ He made it quite clear that he did not believe that 
all of it was literally true. On the other hand, there can be little 
doubt that he visualized human history in a cosmic setting ; that 
he believed his own age to be one of deep depravity — possibly 
of the deepest that can be reached — and the whole preceding 
historical period to be governed by an inherent tendency towarc 
decay, a tendency shared by both the historical and the cosmic 
development.® Whether or not he also believed that this tei 
dency must necessarily come to an end once the point of extreme 
depravity has been reached seems to me uncertain. But he cer- 
tainly believed that it is possible for us, by a human, or rather by 
a superhuman effort, to break through the fatal historical trend, 
and to put an end to the process of decay, 


Great as the similarities are between Plato and Heraclitus, we 
have struck here an important difference. Plato believed that 
the law of historical destiny, the law of decay, can be broken by 
the moral will of man, supported by the power of human reason. 

It is not quite clear how Plato reconciled this view with his 
belief in a law of destiny. But there are some indications which 
may explain the matter. 

Plato believed that the law of degeneration involved moral 
degeneration. Political degeneration at any rate depends in his 
view mainly upon moral degeneration (and lack of knowledge) ; 
and moral degeneration, in its turn, is due mainly to racial 
degeneration. This is the way in which the general cosmic law 
of decay manifests itself in the field of human affairs. 

It is therefore understandable that the great cosmic turning- 
point may coincide with a turning-point in the field of human 
affairs — the moral and intellectual field — and that it may, there- 
fore, appear to us to be brought about by a moral and intellectual 
human effort. Plato may well have believed that, just as the 
general law of decay did manifest itself in moral decay leading 
to political decay, so the advent of the cosmic turning-point would 
manifest itself in the coming of a great law-giver whose powers 
of reasoning and whose moral will are capable of bringing this 
period of political decay to a close. It seems likely that the 


CHAPTER 3 : Plato’s theory of forms or ideas 

prophecy, in the Statesman, of the return of the Golden Age, of 
a new millennium, is the expression of such a belief in the form 
of a myth. However this may be, he certainly believed in both 
— in a general historical tendency towards corruption, and in the 
possibility that we may stop further corruption in the political 
field by arresting all political change. This, accordingly, is the aim 
he strives for.’ He tries to realize it by the establishment of a 
state which is free from the evils of all other states because it does 
not degenerate, because it does not change. The state which is 
free from the evil of change and corruption is the best, the perfect 
state. It is the state of the Golden Age which knew no change. 
It is the arrested state. 


In believing in such an ideal state which does not change, 
Plato deviates radically from the tenets of historicism which we 
found in Heraclitus. But important as this difference is, it gives 
rise to further points of similarity between Plato and Heraclitus. 

Heraclitus, despite the boldness of his reasoning, seems to 
have shrunk from the idea of replacing the cosmos by chaos. 
He seems to have comforted himself, we said, for the loss of a 
stable world by clinging to the view that change is ruled by 
an unchanging law. This tendency to shrink back from the last 
consequences of historicism is characteristic of many historicists. 

In Plato, this tendency becomes paramount. (He was here 
under the influence of the philosophy of Parmenides, the great 
critic of Heraclitus.) Heraclitus had generalized his experience 
of social flux by extending it to the world of ^ all things and 
Plato, I have hinted, did the same. But Plato also extended his 
belief in a perfect state that does not change to the realm of ‘ all 
things \ He believed that to every kind of ordinary or decaying 
thing there corresponds also a perfect thing that does not decay. 
This belief in perfect and unchanging things, usually called the 
Theory of Forms or Ideas became the central doctrine of his 

Plato’s belief that it is possible for us to break the iron law 
of destiny, and to avoid decay by arresting all change, shows that 
his historicist tendencies had definite limitations. An uncom- 
promising and fully developed historicism would hesitate to admit 
that man, by any effort, can alter the laws of historical destiny 
even after he has discovered them". It would hold that he cannot 

O.S.I.E. — ^VOL. I 



work against them, since all his plans and actions are means by 
which the inexorable laws of development realize his historical 
destiny ; just as Oedipus met his fate because of the prophecy, 
and the measures taken by his father for avoiding it, and not in 
spite of them. In order to gain a better understanding of this 
out-and-out historicist attitude, and to analyse the opposite ten- 
dency inherent in Plato’s belief that he could influence fate, I 
shall contrast historicism, as we find it in Plato, with a diametric- 
ally opposite approach, also to be found in Plato, which may be 
called the attitude of social engineering 


The social engineer does not ask any questions about historical 
tendencies or the destiny of man. He believes that man is the 
master of his own destiny and that, in accordance with our aims, 
we can influence or change the history of man just as we have 
changed the face of the earth. He does not believe that these 
ends are imposed upon us by our historical background or by 
the trends of history, but rather that they are chosen, or even 
created, by ourselves, just as we create new thoughts or new works 
of art or new houses or new machinery. As opposed to the his- 
toricist who believes that intelligent political action is possible 
only if the future course of history is first determined, the social 
engineer believes that a scientific basis of politics would be a very 
different thing ; it would consist of the factual information neces- 
sary for the construction or alteration of social institutions, in 
accordance with our wishes and aims. Such a science would have 
to tell us what steps we must take if we wish, for instance, to 
avoid depressions, or else to produce depressions ; or if we wish 
to make the distribution of wealth more even, or less even. In 
other words, the social engineer conceives as the scientific basis 
of politics something like a social technology (Plato, as we shall 
see, compares it with the scientific background of medicine), as 
opposed to the historicist who understands it as a science of 
immutable historical tendencies. 

From what I have said about the attitude of the social 
engineer, it must not be inferred that there are « no important 
differences within the camp of the social engineers. On the 
contrary, the difference between what I call ‘ piecemeal social 
engineering ’ and ' Utopian social engineering ’ is one of the main 
themes of this book. (Cp. especially chapter 9, where I shall 
give my reasons for advocating the former and rejecting the latter.) 

CHAPTER 3 : Plato’s theory of forms or ideas 

But for the time being, I am concerned only with the opposition 
between historicism and social engineering. This opposition can 
perhaps be further clarified if we consider the attitudes taken up 
by the historicist and by the social engineer towards social institU'- 
tionSy i.e. such things as an insurance company, or a police force, 
or a government, or perhaps a grocer’s shop. 

The historicist is inclined to look upon social institutions 
mainly from the point of view of their history, i.e. their origin, 
their development, and their present and future significance. 
He may perhaps insist that their origin is due to a definite plan 
or design and to the pursuit of definite ends, either human or 
divine ; or he may assert that they are not designed to serve any 
clearly conceived ends, but are rather the immediate expression 
of certain instincts and passions ; or he may assert that they 
have once served as means to definite ends, but that they have 
lost this character. The social engineer and technologist, on 
the other hand, will hardly take much interest in the origin of 
institutions, or in the original intentions of their founders 
(although there is no reason why he should not recognize the 
fhct that ‘ only a minority of social institutions are consciously 
designed, while the vast majority have just^ grown ”, as the 
undesigned results of human actions ’ Rather, he will put his 
problem like this. If such and such are our aims, is this institu- 
tion well designed and organized to serve them ? As an example 
we may consider the institution of insurance. The social engineer 
or technologist will not worry much about the question whether 
insurance originated as a profit-seeking business ; or whether its 
historical mission is to serve the common weal. But he may offer 
a criticism of certain institutions of insurances, showing, perhaps, 
how to increase their profits, or, which is a very different thing, 
how to increase the benefit they render to the public ; and he 
will suggest ways in which they could be made more efficient in 
serving the one end or the other. As another example of a social 
institution, we may consider a police force. Some historicists 
may describe it as an instrument for the protection of freedom 
and security, others as an instrument of class rule and ojppression. 
The social engineer or technologist, however, would perhaps 
suggest measures that would make it a suitable instrument for 
the protection of freedom and security, and he might also devise 
measures by which it could be turned into a powerful weapon 
of class rule. (In his function as a citizen who pursues certain 
ends in which he believes, he may demand that these ends, and the 



appropriate measures, should be adopted. But as a technologist, 
he would carefully distinguish between the question of the ends 
and their choice and questions concerning the facts, i.e. the 
social effects of any measure which might be taken 

Speaking more generally, we can say that the engineer or the 
technologist approaches institutions rationally as means that serve 
certain ends, and that as a technologist he judges them wholly 
according to their appropriateness, efficiency, simplicity, etc. 
The historicist, on the other hand, would rather attempt to find 
out the origin and destiny of these institutions in order to assess 
the ^ true role ’ played by them in the development of history — 
evaluating them, for instance, as ' willed by God or as ' willed 
by Fate ", or as ‘ serving important historical trends ", etc. All 
this does not mean that the social engineer or technologist will 
be committed to the assertion that institutions are means to ends, 
or instruments ; he may be well aware of the fact that they are, 
in many important respects, very different from mechanical 
instruments or machines. He will not forget, for example, that 
they ‘ grow ’ in a way which is similar (although by no means 
equal) to the growth of organisms, and that this fact is of great 
importance for social engineering. He is not committed to an 
^ instrumentalist ’ philosophy of social institutions. (Nobody will 
say that an orange is an instrument, or a means to an end ; but we 
often look upon oranges as means to ends, for example, if we wish 
to eat them, or, perhaps, to make our living by selling them.) 

The two attitudes, historicism and social engineering, occur 
sometimes in typical combinations. The earliest and probably 
the most influential example of these is the social and political 
.q^hilosophy of Plato. It combines, as it were, some fairly obvious 
technological elements in the foreground, with a background 
dominated by an elaborate display of typically historicist fea- 
tures. The combination is representative of quite a number of 
social and political philosophers who produced what have been 
later described as Utopian systems. All these systems recom- 
mend some kind of social engineering, since they demand the 
adoption of certain institutional means, though not always very 
realistic ones, for the achievement of their ends. But when we 
proceed to a consideration of these ends, then we frequently 
find that they are determined by historicism. Plato’s political 
ends, especially, depend to a considerable extent on his historicist 
doctrines. First, it is his aim to escape the Heraclitean flux, 
manifested in social revolution and historical decay. Secondly, 

CHAPTER 3 : Plato's theory of forms or ideas 25 

he believes that this can be done by establishing a state which 
is so perfect that it does not participate in the general trend of 
historical development. Thirdly, he believes that the model or 
original of his perfect state can be found in the distant past, in 
a Golden Age which existed in the dawn of history ; for if the 
world decays in time, then we must find increasing perfection 
the further we go back into the past. The perfect state is some- 
thing like the first ancestor, the primogenitor, of the later states, 
which are, as it were, the degenerate offspring of this perfect, or 
best, or ‘ ideal ’ state ; an ideal state which is not a mere 
phantasm, nor a dream, nor an idea in our mind but which 
is, in view of its stability, more real than all those decaying 
societies which are in flux, and liable to pass away at any moment. 

Thus even Plato's political end, the best state, is largely 
dependent on his historicism ; and what is true of his philosophy 
of the state can be extended, as already indicated, to his general 
philosophy of ‘ all things to his Theory of Forms or Ideas. 


The things in flux, the degenerate and decaying things, are 
(like the state) the offspring, the children, as it were, of perfect 
things. And like children, they are copies of their original 
primogenitors. The father or original of a thing in flux is what 
Plato calls its ‘ Form ' or its ^ Pattern ' or its ' Idea As before, 
we must insist that the Form or Idea, in spite of its name, is no 
‘ idea in our mind ' ; it is not a phantasm, nor a dream, but a 
real thing. It is, indeed, more real than all the ordinary things 
which are in flux, and which, in spite of their apparent solidity, 
are doomed to decay ; for the Form or Idea is a thing that is 
perfect, and does not perish. 

The Forms or Ideas must not be thought to dwell, like 
perishable things, in space and time. They are outside space, 
and also outside time (because they are eternal). But they are 
in contact with space and time ; for since they are the primo- 
genitors or models of the things which are generated, and which 
develop and decay in space and time, they must have been in 
contact with space, at the beginning of time. Since they are 
not with us in our space and time, they cannot be perceived by 
our senses, as can the ordinary changing things which interact 
with our senses and are therefore called ‘ sensible things h Those 
sensible things, which are copies or children of the same model 
or original, resemble not only this original, their Form or Idea, 



but also one another, as do children of the same family ; and 
as children are called by the name of their father, so are the 
sensible things, which bear the name of their Forms or Ideas ; 

‘ They are all called after them as Aristotle says 

As a child may look upon his father, seeing in him an ideal, 
a unique model, a god-like personification of his own aspiration ; 
the embodiment of perfection, of wisdom, of stability, glory, and 
virtue ; the power which created him before his world began ; 
which now preserves and sustains him ; and in ^ virtue ’ of which 
he exists ; so Plato looks upon the Forms or Ideas. The Platonic 
Idea is the original and the origin of the thing ; it is the rationale 
of the thing, the reason of its existence — the stable, sustaining 
principle in ‘ virtue ’ of which it exists. It is the virtue of the 
thing, its ideal, its perfection. 

The comparison between the Form or Idea of a class of 
sensible things and the father of a family of children is developed 
by Plato in the Timaeus, one of his latest dialogues. It is in 
close agreement with much of his earlier writing, on which it 
throws considerable light. But in the TimaeuSy Plato goes one 
step beyond his earlier teaching when he represents the contact 
of the Form or Idea with the world of space and time by an 
extension of his simile. He describes the abstract ‘ space ’ in 
which the sensible things move (originally the space or gap 
between heaven and earth) as a receptacle, and compares it with 
the mother of things, in which at the beginning of time the 
sensible things are created by the Forms which stamp or impress 
themselves upon pure space, and thereby give the offspring their 
shape. ‘ We must conceive ’, writes Plato, ‘ three kinds of 
things : first, those which undergo generation ; secondly, that 
in which generation takes place ; and thirdly, the model in whose 
likeness the generated things are born. And we may compare 
the receiving principle to a mother, and the model to a father, 
and their product to a child.’ And he goes on to describe first 
more fully the models — the fathers, the unchanging Forms or 
Ideas : ‘ There is first the unchanging Form which is uncreated 
and indestructible, . . invisible and imperceptible by any sense, 
and which can be contemplated only by pure thought.’ To any 
single one of these Forms or Ideas belongs its offspring or race 
of sensible things, ‘ another kind of things, bearing the name of 
their Form and resembling it, but perceptible to sense, created, 
always in flux, generated in a place and again vanishing from 
that place, and apprehended by opinion based upon perception 

CHAPTER 3 : Plato’s theory of forms or ideas 27 

And the abstract space, which is likened to the mother, is described 
thus : ‘ There is a third kind, which is space, and is eternal, and 
cannot be destroyed, and which provides a home for all generated 
things. . ^ 

It may contribute to the understanding of Plato’s theory of 
Forms or Ideas if we compare it with certain Greek religious 
beliefs. As in many primitive religions, some at least of the Greek 
gods are nothing but idealized tribal primogenitors and heroes 
— personifications of the ^ virtue ’ or ‘ perfection ’ of the tribe. 
Accordingly, certain tribes and families traced their ancestry to 
one or other of the gods. (Plato’s own family is reported to have 
traced its descent from the god Poseidon We have only to 
consider that these gods are immortal or eternal, and perfect— or 
very nearly so — while ordinary men are involved in the flux of 
all things, and subject to decay (which indeed is the ultimate 
destiny of every human individual), in order to see that these 
gods are related to ordinary men in the same way as Plato’s 
Forms or Ideas are related to those sensible things which are their 
copies (or his perfect state to the various states now existing). 
There is, however, an important difference between Greek 
mythology and Plato’s Theory of Forms or Ideas. While the 
Greeks venerated many gods as the ancestors of various tribes or 
families, the Theory of Ideas demands that there should be only 
one Form or Idea of man ; for it is one of the central doctrines 
of the Theory of Forms that there is only one Form of every 
* race ’ or ‘ kind ’ of things. The uniqueness of the Form which 
corresponds to the uniqueness of the primogenitor is a necessary 
element of the theory if it is to perform one of its most important 
functions, namely, to explain the similarity of sensible things, by 
proposing that the similar things are copies or imprints of one 
Form. Thus if there were two equal or similar Forms, their 
similarity would force us to assume that both are copies of a third 
original which thereby would turn out to be the only true and 
single Form. Or, as Plato puts it in the Timaeus : ^ The resemb- 
lance would thus be explained, more precisely, not as one between 
these two things, but in reference to that superior thing which 
is their prototype.’ In the Republic^ which is earlier than the 
TimaeuSy Plato had explained his point even more clearly, using 
as his example the ‘ essential bed ’, i.e. the Form or Idea of a 
bed : ‘ God . . has made one essential bed, and only one ; two 
or more he did not produce, and never will. . . For . . even 
if God were to make two, and no more, then another would be 


brought to iightj namely the Form exhibited by those two ; this^ 
and not those two, would then be the essential bed/ 

This argument shows that the Forms or Ideas provide Plato 
not only with an origin or starting point for ali developments in 
space and time (and especially for human history) but also with 
an explanation of the similarities between sensible things of the 
same kind. If things are similar because of some virtue or 
property which they share, for instance, whiteness, or hardness, 
or goodness, then this virtue or property must be one and the 
same in all of them ; otherwise it would not make them similar. 
According to Plato, they all participate in the one Form or Idea 
of whiteness, if they are white ; of hardness, if they are hard. 
They participate in the sense in which children participate in 
their father’s possessions and gifts ; just as the many particular 
reproductions of an etching which are all impressions from one 
and the same plate, and hence similar to one another, may 
participate in the beauty of the original. 

The fact that this theory is designed to explain the similarities 
in sensible things does not seem at first sight to be in any way 
connected with historicism. But it is ; and as Aristotle tells us, 
it was just this connection which induced Plato to develop the 
Theory of Ideas, I shall attempt to give an outline of this 
development, using Aristotle’s account together with some 
indications in Plato’s own writings. 

If all things are in continuous flux, then it is impossible to 
say anything definite about them. We can have no real know- 
ledge of them, but, at the best, vague and delusive ‘ opinions 
This point, as we know from Plato and Aristotle worried 
many followers of Heraclitus. Parmenides, one of Plato’s 
predecessors who influenced him greatly, had taught that the 
pure knowledge of reason, as opposed to the delusive opinion of 
experience, could have as its object only a world which did not 
change, and that the pure knowledge of reason did in fact reveal 
such a world, But the unchanging and undivided reality which 
Parmenides thought he had discovered behind the world of 
perishable things was entirely unrelated to this world in which 
we live and die. It was therefore incapable of explaining it. 

With this, Plato could not be satisfied. Much as he disliked 
and despised this empirical world of flux, he was, at bottom, most 
deeply interested in it. He wanted to unveil the secret of its 
decay, of its violent changes, and of its unhappiness. He hoped 
to discover the means of its salvation. He was deeply impressed 

CHAPTER 3 : Plato’s theory of forivis or ideas 29 

by Parmenides’ doctrine of an unchanging, real, solid, and per- 
fect world behind this ghostly world in which he suffered ; but 
this conception did not solve his problems as long as it remained 
unrelated to the world of sensible things. What he was looking 
for was knowledge, not opinion ; the pure rational knowledge 
of a world that does not change ; but, at the same time, know- 
ledge that could be used to investigate this changing world, and 
especially, this changing society ; political change, with its strange 
historical laws. Plato aimed at discovering the secret of the royal 
knowledge of politics, of the art of ruling men. 

But an exact science of politics seemed as impossible as any 
exact knowledge of a world in flux ; there were no fixed objects 
in the political field. How could one discuss any political 
questions when the meaning of words like government ’ or 
‘ state ’ or ‘ city ’ changed with every new phase in the historical 
development? Political theory must have seemed to Plato in 
his Heraclitean period to be just as elusive, fluctuating, and 
unfathomable as political practice. 

In this situation Plato obtained, as Aristotle tells us, a most 
important hint from Socrates. Socrates was interested in ethical 
matters ; he was an ethical reformer, a moralist who pestered all 
kinds of people, forcing them to think, to explain, and to account 
for the principles of their actions. He used to question them and 
was not easily satisfied by their answers. The typical reply which 
he received — that we act in a certain way because it is ‘ wise ’ to 
act in this way or perhaps ^ efficient or ^ just % or ‘ pious etc. 
— only incited him to continue his questions by asking what is 
wisdom ; or efficiency ; or justice ; or piety. In other words, 
he was led to enquire- into the ^ virtue ^ of a thing. So he dis- 
cussed, Tor instance, the wisdom displayed in various trades and 
professions, in order to find out what is common to all these 
various and changing ‘ wise ’ ways of behaviour, and so to find 
out what wisdom really is, or what ‘ wisdom ’ really means, or 
(using Aristotle’s way of putting h) what its essence is. It was 
natural ’, says Aristotle, ' that Socrates should search for the 
essence ’ i.e. for the virtue or rationale of a thing and for the 
real, the unchanging or essential meanings of the terms. ‘ In 
this connection he became the first to raise the problem of uni- 
versal definitions.’ 

These attempts of Socrates to discuss ethical terms like 
' justice ’ or ' modesty ’ or ' piety ’ have been rightly compared 
with modern discussions on Liberty (by Mill 2^, for instance), or 



on Authority, or on the Individual and Society (by Gatlin, for 
instance). There is no need to assume that Socrates, in his 
search for the unchanging or essential meaning of such terms, 
personified them, or that he treated them like things. Aristotle’s 
report at least suggests that he did not, and that it was Plato 
who developed Socrates’ method of searching for the meaning 
or essence into a method of determining the real nature, the 
Form or Idea of a thing. Plato retained ^ the Heraclitean 
doctrines that all sensible things are ever in a state of flux, and 
that there is no knowledge about them but he found in Socrates’ 
method a way out of these difficulties. Though there ‘ could be 
no definition of any sensible thing, as they were always changing 
there could be definitions and true knowledge of things of a 
different kind — of the virtues of the sensible things. ‘ If know- 
ledge or thought were to have an object, there would have to 
be some different, some unchanging entities, apart from those 
which are sensible says Aristotle and he reports of Plato 
that ‘ things of this other sort, then, he called Forms or Ideas, 
and the sensible things, he said, were distinct from them, and 
all cajled after them. And the many things which have the 
same name as a certain Form or Idea exist by participating in 

This account of Aristotle’s corresponds closely to Plato’s own 
arguments proffered in the Timaeus and it shows that Plato’s 
fundamental problem was to find a scientific method of dealing 
with sensible things. He wanted to obtain purely rational 
knowledge, and not merely opinion ; and since pure knowledge 
of sensible things could not be obtained, he insisted, as mentioned 
before, on obtaining at least such pure knowledge as was in some 
way related, and applicable, to sensible things. Knowledge of 
the Forms or Ideas fulfilled this demand, since the Form was 
related to its sensible things like a father to his children who are 
under age. The Form was the accountable representative of the 
sensible things, and could therefore be consulted in important 
questions concerning the world of flux. 

According to -our analysis, the theory of Forms or Ideas has 
at least three different functions in Plato’s philosophy, (i) It is 
a most important methodological device, for it makes possible pure 
scientific knowledge, and even knowledge which could be applied 
to the world of changing things of which we cannot immediately 
obtain any knowledge, but only opinion. Thus it becomes 
possible to enquire into the problems of a changing society, and 


to build up a political science. (2) It provides the clue to the 
urgently needed theory of change^ and of decay, to a theory of 
generation and degeneration, and especially, the clue to history. 
(3) It opens a way, in the social realm, towards some kind of 
social engineering ; and it makes possible the forging of instru- 
ments for arresting social change, since it suggests designing a 
‘ best state ’ which so closely resembles the Form or Idea of a 
state that it cannot decay. 

Problem (2), the theory of change and of history, will be 
dealt with in the next two chapters, 4 and 5, where Plato’s 
descriptive sociology is treated, i.e. his description and explana- 
tion of the changing social world in which he lived. Problem 
(3), the arresting of social change, will be dealt with in chapters 
6 to 9, treating Plato’s political programme. Problem (i), that 
of Plato’s methodology, has with the help of Aristotle’s account 
of the history of Plato’s theory been briefly outlined in the present 
chapter. To this discussion, I wish to add here a few more 


I use the name methodological essentialism to characterize the 
view, held by Plato and many of his followers, that it is the task 
of pure knowledge or ‘ science ’ to discover and to describe the 
true nature of things, i.e. their hidden reality or essence. It 
was Plato’s peculiar belief that the essence of sensible things can 
be found in other and more real things — ^in their primogenitors 
or Forms. Many of the later methodological essentialists, for 
instance Aristotle, did not altogether follow him in this ; but they 
all agreed with him in determining the task of pure knowledge 
as the discovery of the hidden nature or Form or essence of 
things. All these methodological essentialists also agreed with 
Plato in holding that these essences may be discovered and dis- 
cerned with the help of intellectual intuition ; that every essence 
has a name proper to it, the name after which the sensible things 
are called ; and that it may be described in words. And a des- 
cription of the essence of a thing they all called a ‘ definition 
According to methodological essentialism, there can be three ways 
of knowing a thing : ‘ I mean that we can know its unchanging 
reality or essence ; and that we can know the definition of the 
essence ; and that we can know its name. Accordingly, two 
questions may be formulated about any real thing. . . : A person 
may give the name and ask for the definition ; or he may give 

32 the myth of origin and destiny 

the definition and ask for the name/ As an example of this 
method, Plato uses the essence of ‘ even ’ (as opposed to ' odd ’) : 
^Number . . may be a thing capable of division into equal 
parts. If it is so divisible, number is named even ’ and the 
definition of the name “ even ’’ is “ a number divisible into 
equal parts . And when we are given the name and asked 
about the definition, or when we are given the definition and 
asked about the name, we speak, in both cases, of one and the 
same essence, whether we call it now even or a number 
divisible into equal parts After this example, Plato proceeds 
to apply this method to a ^ proof concerning the real nature of 
the soul, about which we shall hear more later ^7. 

Methodological essentialism, i.e. the theory that it is the aim 
of science to reveal essences and to describe them by means of 
definitions, can be better understood when contrasted with its 
opposite, methodological nominalism. Instead of aiming at finding 
out what a thing really is, and at defining its true nature, methodo- 
logical nominalism aims at describing how a thing behaves in 
various circumstances, and especially, whether there are any 
" regularities in its behaviour. In other words, methodological 
nominalism sees the aim of science in the description of the things 
and events of our experience, and in an explanation ’ of these 
events, i.e. their description with the help of universal laws 
And it sees in our language, and especially in those of its rules 
which distinguish properly constructed sentences and inferences 
from a mere heap of words, the great instrument of scientific 
description ; words it considers rather as subsidiary tools for 
this task, and not as names of essences. The methodological 
nominalist will never think that a question like ‘ What is energy ? ’ 
or ‘ What is movement ? ’ or ^ What is an atom ? ’ is an important 
question for physics ; but he will attach importance to a question 
like : ‘ How can the energy of the sun be made useful ? ’ or 
* How does a planet move ? ’ or ^ Under what condition does an 
atom radiate light ? ’ And to those philosophers who tell him 
that before having answered the ' what is ’ question he cannot 
hope to give exact answers to any of the ^ how ’ questions, he 
will reply, if at all, by pointing out that he much prefers that 
modest degree of exactness which he can achieve by his methods 
to the pretentious muddle which they have achieved by theirs. 

As indicated by our example, methodological nominalism is 
nowadays fairly generally accepted in the natural sciences. The 
problems of the social sciences, on the other hand, are still for 

CHAPTER 3 : Plato’s theory of forms or ideas 33 

the most part treated by essentialist methods. This is, in my 
opinion, one of the main reasons for their backwardness. But 
many who have noticed this situation judge it differently. 
They believe that the difference in method is necessary, and that 
it reflects an ' essential ’ difference between the ‘ natures ’ of these 
two fields of research. 

The arguments usually offered in support of this view 
emphasize the importance of change in society, and exhibit other 
aspects ©f historicism. The physicist, so runs a typical argument, 
deals with objects like energy or atoms which, though changing, 
retain a certain degree of constancy. He can describe the 
changes encountered by these relatively unchanging entities, and 
does not have to construct or detect essences or Forms or similar 
unchanging entities in order to obtain something permanent on 
which he can make definite pronouncements. The social 
scientist, however, is in a very different position. His whole 
field of interest is changing. There are no permanent entities in 
the social realm, where everything is under the sway of historical 
flux. How, for instance, can we study government ? How could 
w^e identify it in the diversity of governmental institutions, found 
in different states at different historical periods, without assuming 
that they have something essentially in common ? We call an 
institution a government if we think that it is essentially a govern- 
ment, i.e. if it complies with our intuition of what a government 
is, an intuition which we can formulate in a definition. The 
same would hold good for other sociological entities, such as 
‘ civilization We must grasp their essence, so the histpricist 
argument concludes, and lay it down in the form of a definition. 

These modern arguments are, I think, very similar to those 
reported above which, according to Aristotle, led Plato to his 
doctrine of Forms or Ideas. The only difference is that Plato 
(who did not accept the atomic theory and knew nothing about 
energy) applied his doctrine to the realm of physics also, and 
thus to the world as a whole. "We have here an indication of the 
fact that, in the social sciences, a discussion of Plato’s methods 
may be topical even to-day. 

Before proceeding to Plato’s sociology and to the use he made 
of his methodological essentialism in that field, I wish to make it 
quite clear that I am confining my treatment of Plato to his 
historicism, and to his ‘ best state I must therefore warn the 
reader not to expect a representation of the whole of Plato’s 
philosophy, or what may be called a ‘ fair and just ’ treatment 

34 the myth of origin and destiny 

of Platonism. My attitude towards historicism is one of frank 
hostility, based upon the conviction that historicism is futile, and 
worse than that. My survey of the historicist features of 
Platonism is therefore strongly critical. Although I admire much 
in Plato’s philosophy, far beyond those parts which I believe to 
be Socratic, I do not take it as my task to add to the countless 
tributes to his genius. I am, rather, bent on destroying what 
is in my opinion mischievous in this philosophy. It is the 
totalitarian tendency of Plato’s political philosophy which I shall 
try to analyse, and to criticize.®^ 

Plato’s descriptive sociology 

Chapter 4 ; CHANGE AND REST 

Plato was one of the first social scientists and undoubtedly 
by far the most influential. In the sense in which the term 
‘ sociology ’ was understood by Comte, Mill, and Spencer, he 
was a sociologist ; that is to say, he successfully applied his 
idealist method to an analysis of the social life of man, and of 
the laws of its development as well as the laws and conditions 
of its stability. In spite of Plato’s great influence, this side of 
his teaching has been little noticed. This seems to be due to 
two factor^ First of all, much of Plato’s sociology is presented 
by him in such close connection with his ethical and political 
demands that the descriptive elements have been largely over- 
looked. Secondly, many of his thoughts were taken so much for 
granted that they were simply absorbed unconsciously and 
therefore uncritically. It is mainly in this way that his 
sociological theories became so influential. 

Plato’s sociology is an ingenious blend of speculation with 
acute observation of facts. Its speculative setting is, of course, 
the theory of Forms and of universal flux and decay, of generation 
and degeneration. But on this idealist foundation Plato con- 
structs an astonishingly realistic theory of society, capable of 
explaining the main trends in the historical development of the 
Greek city-states as well as the social and political forces at 
work in his own day. 


The speculative or metaphysical setting of Plato’s theory of 
social change has a#eady been sketched. It is the world of 
unchanging Forms or Ideas, of which the world of changing 
things in space and time is the offspring. The Forms or Ideas 
arc not only unchanging, indestructible, and incorruptible, but 
also perfect, true, real, and good ; in fact, * good ’ is once, in 
the Republic explained as ‘ everything that preserves and 
* evil ’ as ' everything that destroys or corrupts The perfect 
and good Forms or Ideas are prior to the copies, the sensible 
things, and they are something like primogenitors or starting 


Plato’s sociology 


points 2 of all the changes in the world of flux. This view is 
used for evaluating the general trend and main direction of all 
changes in the world of sensible things. For if the starting 
point of all change is perfect and good^ then change can only 
be a movement that leads away from the perfect and good ; 
it must be directed towards the imperfect and the evil, towards 

This theory can be developed in detail. The more closely 
a sensible thing resembles its Form or Idea, the less corruptible 
it must be, since the Forms themselves are incorruptible. But 
sensible or generated things are not perfect copies ; indeed, no 
copy can be perfect, since it is only an imitation of the true reality, 
only appearance and illusion, not the truth. Accordingly, no 
sensible things (except perhaps the most excellent ones) resemble 
their Forms sufficiently closely to be unchangeable. ^ Absolute 
and eternal immutability is assigned only to the most divine of 
all things, and bodies do not belong to this order " says Plato. 
A sensible or generated thing — such as a physical body, or a 
human soul — if it is a good copy, may change only very little 
at first ; and the most ancient change or motion — the motion 
of the soul — is still ‘ divine ’ (as opposed to secondary and tertiary 
changes). But every change, however small, must make it 
different, and thus less perfect, by reducing its resemblance to its 
Form. In this way, the thing becomes more changeable with 
every change, and more corruptible, since it becomes further 
removed from its Form which is its ‘ cause of immobility and 
of being at rest as Aristotle says, who paraphrases Plato’s doc- 
trine as follows : ‘ Things are generated by participating in the 
Form, and they decay by losing the Form.’ This process of 
degeneration, slow at first and more rapid afterwards — this law 
of decline and fall — ^is dramatically described by Plato in the 
Laws, the last of his great dialogues. The passage deals primarily 
with the destiny of the human soul, but Plato makes it clear that 
it holds for all things that ‘ share in soul which he means all 
living things. ‘ All things that share in soul change he writes, 

* . apd while they change, they are carried along by the order 
and law of destiny. The smaller the change in their character, 
the less significant is the beginning decline in their level of rank. 
But when the change increases, and with it the iniquity, then 
they fall — down into the abyss and what is known as the infernal 
regions.’ (In the continuation of the passage, Plato mentions the 
possibility that ‘ a soul gifted with an exceptionally large share 



of virtue can, by force of its own will . . , if it is in communion 
with the divine virtue, become supremely virtuous and move to 
an exalted region The problem of the exceptional soul which 
can save itself— and perhaps others — from the general law of 
destiny will be discussed in chapter 8.) Earlier in the Laws, 
Plato summarizes his doctrine of change : ^ Any change what- 
ever, except the change of an evil thing, is the gravest of all the 
treacherous dangers that can befall a thing — ^whether it is now 
a change of season, or of wind, or of the diet of the body, or of 
the character of the soul.’ And he adds, for the sake of emphasis : 

^ This statement applies to everything, with the sole exception, 
as I said just now, of something evil.’ In brief, Plato teaches 
that change is evil, and that rest is divine. 

We see now that Plato’s theory of Forms or Ideas implies 
a certain trend in the development of the world in flux. It 
leads to the law that the corruptibility of all things in that world 
must continually increase. It is not so much a rigid law of 
universally increasing corruption, but rather a law of increasing 
corruptibility ; that is to say, the danger or the likelihood of 
corruption increases, but exceptional developments in the other 
direction are not excluded. Thus it is possible, as the last 
quotations indicate, that a very good soul may defy change and 
decay, and that a very evil thing, for instance a very evil city, 
may be improved by changing it. (In order that such an 
improvement should be of any value, we would have to try to 
make it permanent, i.e. to arrest all further change.) 

In full accordance with this general theory is Plato’s story, 
in the Timaeus, of the origin of species. According to this story, 
man, the highest of animals, is generated by the gods ; the other 
species originate from him by a process of corruption and 
degeneration. First, certain men — ^the cowards and villains — 
degenerate into women. Those who are lacking wisdom degen- 
erate step by step into the lower animals. Birds, we hear, 
came into being -^^hrough the transformation of harmless 
but too easy-going people who would trust their senses too 
much ; * land animals came from men who had no interest 
in philosophy ’ ; and fishes, including shell-fish, ‘ degenerated 
from the most foolish, stupid, and . . unworthy ’ of all 

It is clear that this theory can be applied to human society, 
and to its history. It then explains Hesiod’s ^ pessimistic law of 
development, the law of historical decay. If we are to believe 

Plato’s sociology 


Aristotle’s report (outlined in the last chapter)^ then the theory 
of Forms or Ideas was originally introduced in order to meet a 
methodological demand, the demand for pure or rational know- 
ledge which is impossible in the case of sensible things in flux. 
We now see that the theory does more than that. Over and 
above meeting these methodological demands, it provides a theory 
of change. It explains the general direction of the flux of all sensible 
things, and thereby the historical tendency to degenerate shown 
by man and human society. (And it does still more ; as we shall 
see in chapter 6, the theory of Forms determines the trend of 
Plato’s political demands also, and even the means for their 
realization.) If, as I believe, the philosophies of Plato as well as 
Heraclitus sprang from their social experience, especially from 
the experience of class war and from the abject feeling that their 
social world was going to pieces, then we can understand why the 
theory of Forms came to play such an important part in Plato’s 
philosophy when he found that it was capable of explaining 
the trend towards degeneration. He must have welcomed it as 
the solution of a most mystifying riddle. While Heraclitus had 
been unable to pass a direct ethical condemnation upon the 
trend of the political development, Plato found, in his theory 
of Forms, the theoretical basis for a pessimistic judgement in 
Hesiod’s vein. 

But Plato’s greatness as a sociologist does not lie in his general 
and abstract speculations about the law of social decay. It 
lies rather in the wealth and detail of his observations, and in 
the amazing acuteness of his sociological intuition. He saw 
things which had not been seen before him, and which were 
rediscovered only in our own time. As an example I may men- 
tion his theory of the primitive beginnings of society, of tribal 
patriarchy, and, in general, his attempt to outline the typical 
periods in the development of social life. Another example is 
Plato’s sociological and economic historicism, his emphasis upon 
the economic background of the political life and the historical 
development ; a theory revived by Marx under the name ‘ his- 
torkal materialism A third example is Plato’s most interesting 
law of political revolutions, according to which all revolutions 
presuppose a disunited ruling class (or ' elite ’) ; a law which 
forms the basis of his analysis of the means of arresting political 
change and creating a social equilibrium, and which has been 
recently rediscovered by the theoreticians of totalitarianism, 
especially by Pareto. 


I shall now proceed to a more detailed discussion of these 
points, especially the third, the theory of revolution and of 


The dialogues in which Plato discusses these questions are, 
in chronological order, the Republic^ a dialogue of much later 
date called the Statesman (or the Politicus), and the Laws, the 
latest and longest of his works. In spite of certain minor 
differences, there is much agreement between these dialogues, 
which are in some respects parallel, in others complementary, 
to one another. The Laws for instance, present the story of 
the decline and fall of human society as an account of Greek 
prehistory merging without any break into history ; while the 
parallel passages of the Republic give, in a more abstract way, 
a systematic outline of the development of government ; the 
Statesman^ still more abstract, gives a logical classification of 
types of government, with only a few allusions to historical 
events. Similarly, the Laws formulate the historicist aspect of 
the investigation very clearly. ‘ What is the archetype or origin 
of a state ? ’ asks Plato there, linking this question with the other : 

‘ Is not the best method of looking for an answer to this question 
. . that of contemplating the growth of states as they change 
either towards the good or towards the evil ? ’ But within the 
sociological doctrines, the only major difference appears to be 
due to a purely speculative difficulty which seems to have worried 
Plato. Assuming as the starting point of the development a 
perfect and tljerefore incorruptible state, he found it difficult to 
explain the first change, the Fall of Man, as it were, which sets 
everything going We shall hear, in the next chapter, of Plato’s 
attempt to solve this problem ; but first I shall give a general 
survey of his theory of social development. 

According to the Republic^ the original or primitive form of 
society, and at the same time, the one that resembles the Form 
or Idea of a state most closely, the ' best state is a kingship of 
the wisest and most godlike of men. This ideal city-state is so 
near perfection that it is hard to understand how it can ever 
change. Still, a change does take place ; and with it enters 
Heraclitus’ strife, the driving force of all movement. According 
to Plato, internal strife, class war, fomented by self-interest and 
especially material or economic self-interest, is the main force 
of ‘ social dynamics ’. The Marxian formula ‘ The history of 

Plato’s sociology 


all hitherto existing societies is a history of class straggle ’ ^ gi-g 
Plato’s historicism nearly as well as that of Marx. The four 
most conspicuous periods or ‘ landmarks in the history of political 
degeneration and, at the same time, ^ the most important . . 
varieties of existing states ’ are described by Plato in the 
following order. First after the perfect state comes ^ timarchy ’ 
or ‘ timocracy ’, the rule of the noble who seek honour and 
fame ; secondly, oligarchy, the rule of the rich families ; " next 
in order, democracy is born ’, the rule of liberty which means 
lawlessness ; and last comes ‘ tyranny . . the fourth and final 
sickness of the city 

As can be seen from the last remark, Plato looks upon history, 
which to him is a history of social decay, as if it were the history 
of an illness : the patient is society ; and, as we shall see later, 
the statesman ought to be a physician (and vice versa) — a healer, 
a saviour. Just as the description of the typical course of an 
illness is not always applicable to every individual patient, so is 
Plato’s historical theory of social decay not intended to apply to 
the development of every individual city. But it is intended to 
describe both the original course of development by which the 
main forms of constitutional decay were first generated, and the 
typical course of social change We see that Plato airbed at 
setting out a system of historical periods, governed by a law of 
evolution ; in other words, he aimed at a historicist theory of 
society. This attempt was revived by Rousseau, and was made 
fashionable by Comte and Mill, and by Hegel and Marx ; but 
considering the historical evidence then available, Plato’s system 
of historical periods was just as good as that of any of these modern 
historicists, (The main difference lies in the evaluation of the 
course taken by history. While the aristocrat Plato condemned 
the development he described, these modern authors applauded 
it, believing as they did in a law of historical progress.) 

Before discussing Plato’s perfect state in any detail, I shall give 
a brief sketch of his analysis of the role played by economic motives 
and the class struggle in the process of transition between the four 
decaying forms of the state. The first form into which the perfect 
state degenerates, timocracy, the rule of the ambitious noblcxTien, 
is said to be in nearly all respects similar to the perfect state itself. 
It is important to note that Plato explicitly identified this best and 
oldest among the existing states with the Dorian constitution of 
Sparta and Crete, and that these two tribal aristocracies did in 
fact represent the oldest existing forms of political life within 


Greece. Most of Plato’s excellent description of their institutions 
is given in certain parts of his description of the best or perfect 
state, to which timocracy is so similar. (Through his doctrine of 
the similarity between Sparta and the perfect state, Plato became 
one of the most successful propagators of what I should like to call 
‘ the Great Myth of Sparta ’ — the perennial and influential myth 
of the supremacy of the Spartan constitution and way of life.) 

The main difference between the best or ideal state and 
timocracy is that the latter contains an element of instability ; 
the once united patriarchal ruling class is now disunited, and 
it is this disunity which leads to the next step, to its degeneration 
into oligarchy. Disunion is brought about by ambition. First 
says Plato, speaking of the young timocrat, ‘ he hears his mother 
complaining that her husband is not one of the rulers . 

Thus he becomes ambitious and longs for distinction. But 
decisive in bringing about the next change are competitive and 
acquisitive social tendencies. ‘ We must describe says Plato, 
‘ how timocracy changes into oligarchy . . Even a blind man 
must see how it changes . . It is the treasure house that ruins 
this constitution. They ’ (the timocrats) ^ begin by creating 
opportunities for showing off and spending money, and to this 
end they twist the laws, and they and their wives disobey 
them . . ; and they try to outrival one another.’ In this way 
arises the first class conflict : that between virtue and money, 
or between the old-established ways of feudal simplicity and the 
new ways of wealth. The transition to oligarchy is completed 
when the rich establish a law that ‘ disqualifies from public 
office all those whose means do not reach the stipulated amount. 
This chan*ge is imposed by force of arms, should threats and 
blackmail not succeed . 

With the establishment of the oligarchy, a state of potential 
civil war between the oligarchs and the poorer classes is reached : 
‘just as a sick body . . is sometimes at strife with itself . . , so 
is this sick city, if falls ill and makes war on itself on the 
slightest pretext, whenever the one party or the other manages 
to obtain help from outside, the one from an oligarchic city, or 
the other from a democracy. And does not this sick state break 
out at times into civil war, even without any such help firom 
outside ? ’ This ^civil war begets democracy : ‘ Democracy 
is born . . when the poor win the day, killing some . . , 
banishing others, and sharing with the rest the rights of citizen- 
ship and of public offices, on terms of equality . 



Plato’s description of democracy is a vivid but intensely 
hostile and unjust parody of the political life of Athens, and of 
the democratic creed which Pericles had formulated in a manner 
which has never been surpassed, about three years before Plato 
was born. (Pericles’ programme is discussed in chapter lo, 
below Plato’s description is a brilliant piece of political 
propaganda, and we can appreciate what harm it must have 
done if we consider, for instance, that a man like Adam, an 
excellent scholar and editor of the Republic, is unable to resist 
the rhetoric of Plato’s denunciation of his native city. ' Plato’s 
description of the genesis of the democratic man ’, Adam 
writes, ‘ is one of the most royal and magnificent pieces of 
writing in the whole range of literature, whether ancient or 
modern.’ And when the same writer continues : ‘ the descrip- 
tion of the democratic man as the chameleon of the human 
society paints him for all time ’, then we see that Plato has succeeded 
at least in turning this thinker against democracy, and we may 
wonder how much damage his poisonous writing has done when 
presented, unopposed, to lesser minds. . . 

It seems that often when Plato’s style, to use a phrase of 
Adam’s becomes a ‘ full tide of lofty thoughts and images and 
words ’, he is in urgent need of a cloak to cover up the rags 
and tatters of his argumentation, or even, as in the present case, 
the complete absence of rational arguments. In their stead he 
uses invective, identifying liberty with lawlessness, freedom with 
licence, and equality before the law with disorder. Democrats 
are described as profligate and niggardly, as insolent, lawless, and 
shameless, as fierce and as terrible beasts of prey, as gratifying 
every whim, as living solely for pleasure, and for unnecessary and 
unclean desires. They fill their bellies like the beasts ’, was 
Heraclitus’ way of putting it.) They are accused of calling 
‘ reverence a folly . . ; temperance they call cowardice . ; 

moderation and orderly expenditure they call meanness and 
boorishness ’ etc. ‘ And there are more^trifles of this kind 
says Plato, when the flood of his rhetorical abuse begins to abate, 
^ the schoolmaster fears and flatters his pupils . . , and old men 
condescend to the young . . in order to avoid the appearance of 
being sour and despotic.’ (It is Plato the Master of the Academy 
who puts this into the mouth of Socrates, forgetting that the 
latter had never been a schoolmaster, and that even as an old 
man he had never appeared to be sour or despotic. He had 
always loved, not to ^ condescend ’ to t^he young, but to treat 


them, for instance the young Plato, as his companions and friends. 
Plato himself, we have reason to believe, was less ready to ^ con- 
descend and to discuss matters with his pupils.) ‘ But the 
height of all this abundance of freedom . . is reached Plato 
continues, ‘ when slaves, male as well as female, who have been 
bought on the market, are every whit as free as those whose 
property they are. . . And what is the cumulative effect of all 
this ? That the citizens’ hearts become so very tender that they 
get irritated at the mere sight of anything like slavery and do not 
suffer anybody to submit to its presence ... so that they may 
have no master over them,’ Here, after all, Plato pays homage 
to his native city, even though he does it unwittingly. It will for 
ever remain one of the greatest triumphs of Athenian democracy 
that it treated slaves humanely, and that in spite of the inhuman 
propaganda of philosophers like Plato himself and Aristotle it 
came, as he witnesses, very close to abolishing slavery.^® 

Of much greater merit, although it too is inspired by hatred, 
is Plato’s description of tyranny and especially of the transition 
to it. He insists that he describes things which he has seen 
himself^® ; no doubt, the allusion is to his experiences at the 
court of the older Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse. The transition 
from democracy to tyranny, Plato says, is most easily brought 
about by a popular leader who knows how to exploit the class 
antagonism between the rich and the poor within the democratic 
state, and who succeeds in building up a bodyguard or a private 
army of his own. The people who have hailed him first as the 
champion of freedom are soon enslaved ; and then they must 
fight for him, in ^ one war after another which he must stir 
up . r because he must make the people feel the need of a 
general ’ 2^. With tyranny, the most abject state is reached. 

A very similar survey of the various forms of government 
can be found in the Statesman, where Plato discusses ‘ the origin 
of the tyrant and king, of oligarchies and aristocracies, and of 
democracies ’ Again we find that the various forms of 
existing governments are explained as debased copies of the 
true model or Form of the state, of the perfect state, the standard 
of all imitations, which is said to have existed in the ancient 
times of Cronos, father of Zeus. One difference is that Plato 
here distinguishes six types of debased states ; but this difference 
is unimportant, especially if we remember that Plato says in 
the Republic that the four types discussed are not exhaustive, 
and that there are some intermediate stages. The six types 

Plato’s sociology 


are arrived at, in the Statesman, by first distinguishing between 
three forms of government, the rule of one man, of a few, and 
of the many. Each of these is then subdivided into two types, 
of which one is comparatively good and the other bad, according 
to whether or not they imitate ' the only true original ’ by copying 
and preserving its ancient laws In this way, three con- 
servative or lawful and three utterly depraved or lawless forms 
are distinguished ; monarchy, aristocracy, and a conservative 
form of democracy are the lawful imitations, in order of merit. 
But democracy changes into its lawless form, and deteriorates 
further, through oligarchy, the lawless rule of the few, into a 
lawless rule of the one, tyranny, which, just as Plato has said 
in the Republic, is the worst of all. 

That tyranny, the . most evil state, need not be the end of 
the development is indicated in a passage in the Laws which 
partly repeats, and partly connects with, the story of the 
Statesman. ‘ Give me a state governed by a young tyrant ’, 
exclaims Plato there, . who has the good fortune to be the 
contemporary of a great legislator, and to meet him by some 
happy accident. What more could a god do for a city which 
he wants to make happy ? ’ Tyranny, the most evil state, may 
be reformed in this way. (This agrees with the remark in the 
Laws, quoted above, that all change is evil, ‘ except the change 
of an evil thing There is little doubt that Plato, when speak- 
ing of the great lawgiver and the young tyrant, must have been 
thinking of himself and his various experiments with young 
tyrants, and especially of his attempts at reforming the younger 
Dionysius’ tyranny over Syracuse. These ill-fated experiments 
will be discussed later.) 

One of the main objects of Plato’s analysis of political develop- 
ments is to ascertain the driving force of all historical change. 
In the Laws, the historical survey is explicitly undertaken with 
this aim in view : ‘ Have not uncounted thousands of cities 
been born during this time . . and has not each of them been 
under all kinds of government ? . . Let us, if we can, get hold 
of the cause of so much change. I hope that we may thus 
reveal the secret both of the birth of constitutions, and also 
of their changes.’ As the result of these investigations he 
discovers the sociological law that internal disunion, class 
w’^ar fomented by the antagonism of economic class interests, 
is the driving force of all political revolutions. But Plato’s 
formulation of this fundamental law goes even further. He 


insists that only internal sedition within the ruling class itself 
can weaken it so much that its rule can be overthrown. 
' Changes in any constitution originate, without exception, 
within the ruling class itself, and only when this class becomes 
the seat of disunion ' is his formula in the Republic ; and in 
the Laws he says (possibly referring to this passage of the 
Republic) : ' How can a kingship, or any other form of govern- 
ment, ever be destroyed by anybody but the rulers themselves ? 
Have we forgotten what we said a while ago, when dealing with 
this subject, as we did the other day ? ’ This sociological law, 
together with the observation that economic interests are the 
most likely causes of disunion, is Plato’s clue to history. But 
it is more. It is also the clue to his analysis of the conditions 
necessary for the establishment of political equilibrium, i.e. for 
"arresting political change. He assumes that these conditions 
were realized in the best or perfect state of ancient times. 


Plato’s description of the perfect or best state has usually 
been interpreted as the Utopian programme of a progressivist. 
In spite of his repeated assertions, in the Republic^ TirAaeus^ and 
Critias^ that he is describing the distant past, and in spite of the 
parallel passages in the Laws whose historical intention is mani- 
fest, it is often assumed that it was his intention to give a veiled 
description of the future. But I think that Plato meant what 
he said, and that many characteristics of his best state, especially 
as described in Books Two to Four of the Republic^ are intended 
(like his accounts of primitive society in the Statesman and the 
Laws) to be historical 2^, or perhaps prehistorical. This may 
not apply to all characteristics of the best state. Concerning, 
for example, the kingship of the philosophefs (described in Books 
Five to Seven of the Republic)^ Plato indicates himself that it may 
be a characteristic only of the timeless world of Forms or Ideas, 
of the ‘ City in Heaven ’. These intentionally unhistorical ele- 
ments of his description will be discussed later, together with 
Plato’s ethico-political demands. It must, of course, be admitted 
that he did not intend, in his description of the primitive or 
ancient constitutions, to give an exact historical account ; he 
certainly knew that he did not possess the necessary data for 
achieving anything like that. I believe, however, that he made 
a serious attempt to reconstruct the ancient tribal forms of social 
life as well as he could. There is no reason to doubt this. 

Plato’s sociology 


especially since the attempt was, in a good number of its details, 
very successful. It could hardly be otherwise, since Plato arrived 
at his picture by an idealized description of the ancient tribal 
aristocracies of Crete and Sparta. With his acute sociological 
intuition he had seen that these forms were not only old, but 
petrified, arrested ; that they were relics of a still older form. 
And he concluded that this still older form had been even more 
stable, more securely arrested. This very ancient and accord- 
ingly very good and very stable state he tried to reconstruct in 
such a way as to make clear how it had been kept free from 
disunion ; how class war had been avoided, and how the influence 
of economic interests had been reduced to a minimum, and kept 
well under control. These are the main problems of Plato’s 
reconstruction of the best state. 

How does Plato solve the problem of avoiding class war? 
Had he been a progressivist, he might have hit on the idea of 
a classless, equalitarian society ; for, as we can see for instance 
from his own parody of Athenian democracy, there were strong 
equalitarian tendencies at work in Athens. But he was not out 
to construct a state that might come, but a state that had 
been — the father of the Spartan state, which was certainly not 
a classless society. It was a slave state, and accordingly Plato’s 
best state is based on the most rigid class distinctions. It is a 
caste state. The problem of avoiding class war is solved, not 
by abolishing classes, but by giving the ruling class a superiority 
which cannot be challenged. As in Sparta, the ruling class alone 
is permitted to carry arms, it alone has any political or other 
rights, and it alone receives education, i.e. a specialized training 
in the art of keeping down its human sheep or its human cattle 
(In fact, its overwhelming superiority disturbs Plato a little ; he 
fears that its members * may worry the sheep ’, instead of merely 
shearing them, and ‘ act as wolves rather than dogs ’ This 
problem is considered later in the chapter.) As long as the ruling 
class is united, there can be no challenge to their authority, and 
consequently no class war. 

Plato distinguishes three classes in his best state, the guardians, 
their armed auxiliaries or warriors, and the working class. But 
actually there are only two castes, the military caste — the armed 
and educated rulers — and the unarmed and uneducated ruled, 
the human sheep ; for the guardians are no separate caste, but 
merely old and wise warriors who have been promoted from the 
ranks of the auxiliaries. That Plato divides his ruling caste into 


two classes, the guardians and the auxiliaries, without elaborating 
similar subdivisions within the working class, is largely due to the 
fact that he is interested only in the rulers. The workers, trades- 
men, etc., do not interest him at all, they are only human cattle 
whose sole function is to provide for the material needs of the 
ruling class. Plato even goes so far as to forbid his rulers to 
legislate for people of this class, and for their petty problems. 
This is why our information about the lower classes is so scanty. 
But Plato’s silence is not wholly uninterrupted. ‘ Are there not 
drudges he asks once, who do not possess a spark of intelligence 
and are unworthy to be admitted into the community, but who 
have strong bodies for hard labour ? ’ Since this nasty remark 
has given rise to the soothing comment that Plato does not admit 
slaves into his city, I may here point out that this view is mistaken. 
It is true that Plato discusses nowhere explicitly the status of slaves 
in his best state, and it is even true that he says that the name 
‘ slave ’ should better be avoided, and that we should call the 
workers ‘ supporters ’ or even ‘ employers ’. But this is done for 
propagandist reasons. Nowhere is the slightest suggestion to be 
found that the institution of slavery is to be abolished, or to be 
mitigated. On the contrary, Plato has only scorn for those 
‘ tenderhearted ’ Athenian democrats who supported the aboli- 
tionist movement. And he makes his view quite clear, for 
example, in his description of timocracy, the second-best state, 
and the one directly following the best. There he says of the 
timocratic man : ‘ He will be inclined to treat slaves cruelly, 
for he does not despise them as much as a well-educated man 
would.’ But since only in the best city can education be found 
which is superior to that of timocracy, we are bound to conclude 
that^ there are slaves in Plato’s best city, and that they are not 
treated with cruelty, but are properly despised. In his righteous 
contempt for them, Plato does not elaborate the point. This 
conclusion is fully corroborated by the fact that a passage in the 
Republic which criticizes the current practice of Greeks enslaving 
Greeks ends up with the explicit endorsement of the enslaving of 
barbarians, and even with a recommendation to ‘ our citizens ’ 
— ^i.e. those of the best city — to ^ do unto barbarians as Greeks 
now do unto Greeks And it is further corroborated by the 
contents of the Laws^ and the most inhuman attitude towards 
slaves adopted there. 

Since the ruling class alone has political power, including 
the power of keeping the number of the human cattle within 

Plato’s sociology 


such limits as to prevent them from becoming a danger, the 
whole problem of preserving the state is reduced to that of 
preserving the internal unity of the master class. How is this 
unity of the rulers preserved ? By training and other psycho- 
logical influences, but otherwise mainly by the elimination of 
economic interests which may lead to disunion. This economic 
abstinence is achieved and controlled by the introduction of 
communism, i.e. by the abolition of private property, especially 
of precious metals. (The possession of precious metals was for- 
bidden in Sparta.) This communism is confined to the ruling 
class, which alone must be kept free from disunion ; quarrels 
among the ruled are not worthy of consideration. Since all 
property is common property, there must also be a common 
ownership of women and children. No member of the ruling 
class must be able to identify his children, or his parents. The 
family must be destroyed, or rather, extended to cover the whole 
warrior class. Family loyalties might otherwise become a pos- 
sible source of disunion ; therefore ' each should look upon all 
as if belonging to one family ’ 2^. (This suggestion was neither 
so novel nor so revolutionary as it sounds ; we must remember 
such Spartan restrictions on the privacy of family life as the ban on 
private meals, constantly referred to by Plato as the institution of 
common meals ’.) But even the common ownership of women 
and children is not quite sufficient to guard the ruling class from 
all economic dangers. It is important to avoid prosperity as well 
as poverty. Both are dangers to unity : poverty, because it drives 
people to adopt desperate means to satisfy their needs ; prosperity, 
because most change arises from abundance, from an accumula- 
tion of wealth which makes dangerous experiments possible. 
Only a communist system which has room neither for great 
want nor for great wealth can reduce economic interests to a 
minimum, and guarantee the unity of the ruling class. 

The communism of the ruling caste of his best city can thus 
be derived from Plato’s fundamental sociological law of change ; 
it is a necessary condition of the political stability which is its 
fundamental characteristic. But although an important condi- 
tion, it is not a sufficient one. In order that the ruling class may 
feel really united, that it should feel like one tribe, i.e. like one 
big family, pressure from without the class is as necessary as are 
the ties' between the members of the class. This pressure can be 
secured by emphasizing and widening the gulf between the rulers 
and the ruled. The stronger the feeling that the ruled are a 



different and an altogether inferior race, the stronger will be the 
sense of unity among the rulers. We arrive in this way at the 
fundamental principle, announced only after some hesitation, that 
there must be no mingling between the classes ' Any meddling 
or changing over from one class to another says Plato, ' is a 
great crime against the city and may rightly be denounced as the 
basest wickedness.'' But such a rigid division of the classes must 
be justified, and an attempt to justify it can only proceed from 
the claim that the rulers are superior to the ruled. Accordingly, 
Plato tries to justify his class division by the threefold claim that 
the rulers are vastly superior in three respects — in race, in educa- 
tion, and in their scale of values. Plato’s moral valuations, which 
are, of course, identical with those of the rulers of his best state, 
will be discussed in chapters 6 to 8 ; I may therefore confine 
myself here to describing some of his ideas concerning the origin, 
the breeding, and the education of his ruling class. (Before 
proceeding to this description, I wish to express my belief that 
personal superiority, whether racial or intellectual or moral or 
educationah can never establish a claim to political prerogatives, 
even if such superiority could be ascertained. Most people in 
civilized countries nowadays admit racial superiority to be a 
myth ; but even if it ere an established fact, it should not create 
special political rights, though it might create special moral 
responsibilities for the superior persons. Analogous demands 
should be made of those who are intellectually and morally and 
educationally superior ; and I cannot help feeling that the oppo- 
site claims of certain intellectualists and moralists only show how 
little successful their education has been, since it failed to make 
them aware of their own limitations, and of their Pharisaism.) 


If we want to understand Plato’s views about the origin, 
breeding, and education of his ruling class, we must not lose 
sight of the two main points of our analysis. We must keep 
in mind, first of all, that Plato is reconstructing a city of the 
past, although one connected with the present in such a way 
that certain of its features are still discernible in existing states, 
for instance, in Sparta ; and secondly, that he is reconstructing 
his city with a view to the conditions of its stability, and that 
he seeks the guarantees for this stability solely within the ruling 
class itself, and more especially, in its unity and strength. 

Regarding the origin of the ruling class, it may be mentioned 

Plato’s sociology 


that Plato speaks in the Statesman of a time, prior even to that 
of his best state, when ' God himself was the shepherd of men, 
ruling over them exactly as man . . still rules over the beasts* 
There was . . no ownership of women and children ’ This 
is not merely the simile of the good shepherd ; in the light of 
what Plato says in the Laws, it must be interpreted more literally 
than that. For there we are told that this primitive society, 
which is prior even to the first and best city, is one of nomad 
hill shepherds under a patriarch : ‘ Government originated 
says Plato there of the period prior to the first settlement, ^ . as 
the rule of the eldest who inherited his authority from his father 
or mother ; all the others followed him like a flock of birds, thus 
forming one single horde ruled by that patriarchal authority and 
kingship which of all kingships is the most just.’ These nomad 
tribes, we hear, settled in the cities of the Peloponnese, especially 
in Sparta, under the name of Dorians How this happened 
is not very clearly explained, but we understand Plato’s reluctance 
when we get a hint that the * settlement ’ was in fact a violent 
subjugation. This, for all we know, is the true story of the Dorian 
settlement in the Peloponnese. We therefore have every reason 
to believe that Plato intended his story as a serious description 
of prehistoric events ; as a description not only of the origin of 
the Dorian master race but also of the origin of their human 
cattle, i.e. the original inhabitants. In a parallel passage in the 
Republic, Plato gives us a mythological yet very pointed descrip- 
tion of the conquest itself, when dealing with the origin of the 
‘ earthborn the ruling class of the best city. (The Myth of 
the Earthborn will be discussed from a different point of view 
in chapter 8.) Their victorious march into the city, previously 
founded by the tradesmen and workers, is described as follows : 

^ After having armed and trained the earthborn, let us now make 
them advance, under the command oPthe guardians, till they 
arrive in the city. Then let them look round to -find out the 
best place for their camp — the spot that is most suitable for keep- 
ing down the inhabitants, should anyone show unwillingness to 
obey the law, and for holding back external enemies who may 
come down like wolves on the fold.’ This short but triumphant 
tale of the subjugation of a sedentary population by a conquer- 
ing war horde (who are identified, in the Statesman, with the 
nomad hill shepherds of the period before the settlement) must 
be kept in mind when we interpret Plato’s reiterated insistence 
that good rulers, whether gods or demigods or guardians, are 


patriarchal shepherds of men, and that the true political art, the 
art of ruling, is a kind of herdsmanship, i.e. the art of managing 
and keeping down the human cattle. And it is in this light that 
we must consider his description of the breeding and training of 
^ the auxiliaries who are subject to the rulers like sheep-dogs to 
the shepherds of the state 

The breeding and the education of the auxiliaries and thereby 
of the ruling class of Plato's best state is, like their carrying of 
arms, a class symbol and therefore a class prerogative And 
breeding and education are not empty symbols but, like arms, 
instruments of class rule, and necessary for ensuring the stability 
of this rule. They are treated by Plato solely from this point 
of view, i.e. as powerful political weapons, as means which are 
useful for herding the human cattle, and for unifying the ruling 

To this end, it is important that the master class should feel 
as one superior master race. ^ The race of the guardians must 
be kept pure ' says Plato (in defence of infanticide), when 
developing the racialist argument that we breed animals with 
great care while neglecting our own race, an argument which 
has been repeated ever since. (Infanticide was not an Athenian 
institution ; Plato, seeing that it was practised at Sparta for 
eugenic reasons, concluded that it must be ancient and there- 
fore good.) He demands that the same principles be applied 
to the breeding of the master race as are applied, by an experi- 
enced breeder, to dogs, horses, or birds. ‘ If you did not breed 
them in this way, don’t you think that the race of your birds 
or dogs would quickly degenerate ? ’ Plato argues ; and he draws 
the conclusion that the same principles apply to the race of 
men ’. The racial qualities demanded from a guardian or from 
an auxiliary are, more specifically, those of a sheep-dog. ^ Our 
warrior-athletes . . must be vigilant like watch-dogs demands 
Plato, and he asks : ‘ Surely, there is no difference, so far as 
their natural fitness for keeping guard is concerned, between a 
gallant youth and a well-bred dog ? ’ In his enthusi^m and 
admiration for the dog, Plato goes so far as to discern in him a 
‘ genuine philosophical nature ’ ; for ^ is not the love of learning 
identical with the philosophical attitude ? ’ 

The main difficulty which besets Plato is that guardians and 
auxiliaries must be endowed with a character that is fierce and 
gentle at the same time. It is clear that they must be bred to 
be fierce, since they must ‘ meet any danger in^*fe^|^s^“an4 

Plato’s sociology 


unconquerable spirit YqJ ‘ if their nature is to be like that, 
how are they to be kept from being violent against one another, 
or against the rest of the citizens ? ’ Indeed, it would be 
' simply monstrous if the shepherds should keep dogs . . who 
would worry the sheep, behaving like wolves rather than dogs 
The problem is important from the point of view of the political 
equilibrium, or rather, of the stability of the state, for Plato 
does not rely on an equilibrium of the forces of the various 
classes, since that would be unstable. A control of the master 
class, its arbitrary powers, and its fierceness, through the oppos- 
ing force of the ruled, is out of the question, for the superiority of 
the master class must remain unchallenged. The only admissible 
control of the master class is therefore self-control. Just as the 
ruling class must exercise economic abstinence, i.e. refrain from an 
excessive economic exploitation of the ruled, so it must also be able 
to refrain from too much fierceness in its dealings with the ruled. 
But this can only be achieved if the fierceness of its nature is 
balanced by its gentleness. Plato finds this a very serious 
problem, since ^ the fierce nature is the exact opposite of the 
gentle nature His speaker, Socrates, reports that he is per- 
plexed, until he remembers the dog again. ‘ Well-bred dogs are 
by nature most gentle to their friends and acquaintances, but 
the very opposite to strangers he says. It is therefore proved 
^ that the character we try to give our guardians is not contrary 
to nature The aim of breeding the master race is thus 
established, and shown to be attainable. It has been derived 
from an analysis of the conditions which are necessary for 
keeping the state stable. 

Plato’s educational aim is exactly the same. It is the purely 
political aim of stabilizing the state by blending a fierce and a 
gentle element in the character of the rulers. The two disciplines 
in which children of the Greek upper class were educated, 
gymnastics and music (the latter, in the wider sense of the word, 
included all literary studies), are correlated by Plato with the 
two elements of character, fierceness and gentleness. ^ Have you 
not observed asks Plato ‘ how the character is affected by 
an exclusive training in gymnastics without music, and how it 
is affected by the opposite training ? . . Exclusive preoccupa- 
tion with gymnastics produces men who are fiercer than they 
ought to be, while an analogous preoccupation with music makes 
them too soft . . But we maintain that our guardians must 
combine both of these natures . , This is why I say that some 


god must have given man these two arts, music and gymnastics ; 
and their purpose is not so much to serve soul and body 
respectively, but rather to tune properly the two main strings 
i.e* to bring into harmony the two elements of the soul, gentle- 
ness and fierceness. * These are the outlines of our system of 
education and training ’, Plato concludes his analysis. 

In spite of the fact that Plato identifies the gentle element 
of the soul with her philosophic disposition, and in spite of the 
fact that philosophy is going to play such a dominant role in 
the later parts of the Republic^ he is not at all biased in favour 
of the gentle element of the soul, or of musical, i.e. literary, 
education. The impartiality in balancing the two elements is 
the more remarkable as it leads him to impose the most severe 
restrictions on literary education, compared with what was, in 
his time, customary in Athens. This, of course, is only part of 
his general tendency to prefer Spartan customs to Athenian 
ones. (Crete, his other model, was even more anti-musical than 
Sparta Plato’s political principles of literary education are 
based upon a simple comparison. Sparta, he saw, treated its 
human cattle just a little too harshly ; this is a symptom or 
even an admission of a feeling of weakness and therefore a 
symptom of the incipient degeneration of the master class. 
Athens, on the other hand, was altogether too liberal and slack 
in her treatment of slaves. Plato took this as proof that Sparta 
insisted just a little too much on gymnastics, and Athens, of 
course, far too much on music. This simple estimate enabled 
him readily to reconstruct what in his opinion must have been 
the true measure or the true blend of the two elements in the 
education of the best state, and to lay down the principles of 
his educational policy. Judged from the Athenian viewpoint, it 
is nothing less than the demand that all literary education be 
strangled by a close adherence to the example of Sparta with 
its strict state control of all literary matters. Not only poetry 
but also music in the ordinary sense of the term are to be con- 
trolled by a rigid censorship, and both are to be devoted entirely 
to strengthening the stability of the state by making the young 
more conscious of class disciphne and thus more ready to 
serve class interests. Plato even forgets that it is the function 
of music to make the young more gentle, for he demands such 
forms of music as will make them braver, i.e. fiercer. (Con- 
sidering that Plato was an Athenian, his arguments concerning 
music proper appear to me almost incredible in their superstitious 

O.S.I.E. — ^VOL. I G 

Plato’s sociology 


intolerance, especially if compared with a more enlightened con- 
temporary criticism But even now he has many musicians on 
his side, possibly because they are flattered by his high opinion 
of the importance of music, i.e. of its political power. The same 
is true of educationists, and even more of philosophers, since 
Plato demands that they should rule ; a demand which will be 
discussed in chapter 8.) 

The political principle that determines the education of the 
soul, namely, the preservation of the stability of the state, 
determines also that of the body. The aim is simply that of 
Sparta. While the Athenian citizen was educated to a general 
versatility, Plato demands that the ruling class shall be trained 
as a class of professional warriors, ready to strike against enemies 
from without or from within the state. Children of both sexes, 
we are told twice, * must be taken on horseback within the 
sight of actual war ; and provided it can be done safely, they 
must be brought into battle, and made to taste blood ; just as 
one does with young hounds ’ The description of a modern 
writer, who characterizes contemporary totalitarian education 
as * an intensified and continual form of mobilization fits 
Plato’s whole system of education very well indeed. 

This is an outline of Plato’s theory of the best or most ancient 
state, of the city which treats its human cattle exactly as a wise but 
hardened shepherd treats his sheep ; not too cruelly, but with 
the proper contempt. . As an analysis both of Spartan social 
institutions and of the conditions of their stability and instability, 
and as an attempt at reconstructing more rigid and primitive 
forms of tribal life, this description is excellent indeed. (Only 
the descriptive aspect is dealt with in this chapter. The ethical 
aspects will be discussed later.) I believe that much in Plato’s 
writings that has been usually considered as mere mythological 
or Utopian speculation can in this way be interpreted as socio- 
logical description and analysis. If we look, for instance, at his 
myth of the triumphant war hordes subjugating a settled popula- 
tion, then we must admit that from the point of view of descriptive 
sociology it is most successful. In fact, it could even claim to be 
an anticipation of an interesting (though possibly too sweeping) 
modern theory of the origin of the state, according to which 
centralized and organized political power generally originates in 
such a conquest There may be more descriptions of this kind 
in Plato’s writings than we can at present estimate. 




To sum up. In. an attempt to understand and to interpret 
the changing social world as he experienced it, Plato was led 
to develop a systematic historicist sociology in great detail. He 
thought of existing states as decaying copies of an unchanging 
Form or Idea. He tried to reconstruct this Form or Idea of 
a state, or at least to describe a society which resembled it as 
closely as possible. Along with ancient traditions, he used as 
material for his reconstruction the results of his analysis of the 
social institutions of Sparta and Crete — the most ancient forms 
of social life he could find in Greece — in which he recognized 
arrested forms of even older tribal societies. But in order to 
make a proper use of this material, he needed a principle for 
distinguishing between the good or original or ancient traits of 
the existing institutions and their symptoms of decay. This 
principle he found in his law of political revolutions, according 
to which disunion in the ruling class, and their preoccupation 
with economic affairs, are the origin of all social change. His 
best state was therefore to be reconstructed in such a way 
as to eliminate all the germs and elements of disunion and 
decay as radically as this could be done ; that is to say, it 
was to be constructed out of the Spartan state with an eye 
to the conditions necessary for the unbroken unity of the master 
class, guaranteed by its economic abstinence, its breeding, and 
its training. 

Interpreting existing societies as decadent copies of an ideal 
state, Plato furnished Hesiod’s somewhat crude views of human 
history at once with a theoretical background and with a wealth 
of practical application. He developed a remarkably realistic 
historicist theory which found the cause of social change in 
Heraclitus’ disunion, and in the strife of classes in which he 
recognized the driving as well as the corrupting forces of history. 
He applied these historicist principles to the story of the Decline 
and Fall of the Greek city-states, and especially to a criticism 
of democracy, which he described as effeminate and degenerate. 
And we may add that later, in the Laws **, he applied them 
also to a story of the Decline and Fall of the Persian Empire, 
thus making the beginning of a long series of Decline-and-Fall 
dramatizations of the histories of empires and civilizations. 
(O. Spengler’s notorious Decline of the West is perhaps the worst 
but not the last of them.) All this, I think, can be interpreted 

Plato’s sociology 


as an attempt, and a most impressive one, to explain, and to 
rationalize, his experience of the breakdown of the tribal society ; 
an experience analogous to that which had led Heraclitus to 
develop the first philosophy of change. 

But our analysis of Plato’s descriptive sociology is still incom- 
plete. His stories of the Decline and Fall, and with it nearly 
all the later stories, exhibit at least two characteristics which we 
have not discussed so far. He conceived these declining societies 
as some kind of organism, and the decline as a process similar 
to ageing. And he believed that the decline is well deserved, 
in the sense that moral decay, a fall and decline of the soul, goes 
hand in hand with that of the social body. All this plays an 
important role in Plato’s theory of the first change — in the Story 
of the Number and of the Fall of Man. This theory, and its 
connection with the doctrine of Forms or Ideas, will be discussed 
in the next chapter. 


Plato was not the first to approach social phenomena in the 
spirit of scientific investigation. The beginning of social science 
goes back at least to the generation of Protagoras, the first of the 
great thinkers who called themselves Sophists It is marked 
by the realization of the need to distinguish between two different 
elements in man’s environment — his natural environment and 
his social environment. This is a distinction which is difficult 
to make and to grasp, as can be inferred from the fact that even 
now it is not clearly established in our minds. It has been ques- 
tioned ever since the time of Protagoras. Most of us, it seems, 
have a strong inclination to accept the peculiarities of our social 
environment as if they were ‘ natural 

It is one of the characteristics of the magical attitude of a 
primitive tribal or ‘ closed ’ society that it lives in a charmed 
circle ^ of unchanging taboos, of laws and customs which are 
felt to be as inevitable as the rising of the sun, or the cycle of 
the seasons, or similar obvious regularities of nature. And it 
is only after this magical ^ closed society ’ has actually broken 
down that a theoretical understanding of the difference between 
‘ nature ’ and ^ society ’ can develop. , 


An analysis of this development requires, I believe, a clear 
grasp of an important distinction. It is the distinction between 
{a) natural laws^ or laws of nature, such as the laws describing 
the movements of the sun, the moon, and the planets, the succes- 
sion of the seasons, etc., or the law of gravity or, say, the laws of 
thermodynamics, and, on the other hand, (b) normative laws, or 
norms, or prohibitions and commandments, i.e. such rules as 
forbid or demand certain modes of conduct ; examples are the 
Ten Commandments or the legal rules regulating the procedure 
of the election of Members of Parliament, or the laws that con- 
stitute the Athenian Constitution. 

Since the discussion of these matters is often vitiated by a 
tendency to blur this distinction, a few more words may be said 
about it. A law in sense (a ) — a natural law — is describing a 
strict, unvarying regularity which either in fact holds in nature 
(in this case, the law is a true statement) or does not hold (in 


Plato’s sociology 


this case it is false). If we do not know whether a law of nature 
is true or false, and if we wish to draw attention to our uncer- 
tainty, we often call it an * hypothesis A law of nature is unalter- 
able ; there are no exceptions to it. For if we are satisfied that 
something has happened which contradicts it, then we do not 
say that there is an exception, or an alteration to the law, but 
rather that our hypothesis has been refuted, since it has turned 
out that the supposed strict regularity did not hold, or in other 
words, that the supposed law of nature was not a true law of 
nature, but a false statement. Since laws of nature are unalter- 
able, they can be neither broken nor enforced. They are beyond 
human control, although they may possibly be used by us for 
technical purposes, and although we may get into trouble by not 
knowing them, or by ignoring them. 

All this is very different if we turn to laws of the kind (i), that 
is, to normative laws. A normative law, whether it is now a legal 
enactment or a moral commandment, can be enforced by men. 
Also, it is alterable. It may be perhaps described as good or 
bad, right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable ; but only in a 
metaphorical sense can it be called * true ’ or ‘ false since it does 
not describe a fact, but lays down directions for our behaviour. 
If it has any point or significance, then it can be broken ; and if 
it cannot be broken then it is superfluous and without significance, 

‘ Do not spend more money than you possess ’ is a significant 
normative law ; it may be significant as a moral or legal rule, 
and the more necessary as it is so often broken. ‘ Do not take 
more money out of your purse than there was in it ’ may be said 
to be, by its wording, also a normative law ; but nobody would 
consider seriously such a rule as a significant part of a moral or 
legal system, since it cannot be broken. If a significant normative 
law is observed, then this is always due to human control — to 
human actions and decisions. Usually it is due to the decision 
to introduce sanctions — to punish or restrain those who break the 

I believe, in common with a great number of thinkers, and 
especially with many social scientists, that the distinction between 
laws in sense (a), i.e. statements describing regularities of nature, 
and laws in sense (S), i.e. norms such as prohibitions or com- 
mandments, is a fundamental one, and that these two kinds 
of law have hardly more in common than a name. But this 
view is by no means generally accepted ; on the contrary, many 
thinkers believe that there are norms — prohibitions or command- 


ments — which are ^ natural ’ in the sense that they are laid down 
in accordance with natural laws in sense (a). They say, for 
example, that certain legal norms are in accordance with human 
nature, and therefore with psychological natural laws in sense 
(a)^ while other legal norms may be contrary to human nature ; 
and they add that those norms which can be shown to be in 
accordance with human nature are really not very different 
from natural laws in sense (a). Others say that natural laws 
in sense {a) are really very similar to normative laws since they 
are laid down by the will or decision of the Creator of the 
Universe — a view which, undoubtedly, lies behind the use of the 
originally normative word ^ law ’ for laws of the kind (a). All 
these views may be worthy of being discussed. But in order to 
discuss them, it is necessary first to distinguish between laws in 
the sense of {a) and laws in the sense of (b)^ and not to confuse 
the issue by a bad terminology. Thus we shall reserve the term 
‘ natural laws ’ exclusively for laws of type (a), and we shall refuse 
to apply this term to any norms which are claimed to be, in some 
sense or other, ® natural The confusion is quite unnecessary 
since it is easy to speak of ‘ natural rights and obligations ’ or of 
‘ natural norms ’ if we wish to stress the ‘ natural ’ character of 
laws of type (b). 


I belike that it is necessary for the understanding of Plato’s 
sociology to consider how the distinction between natural and 
normative laws may have developed. I shall first discuss what 
seem to have been the starting point and the last step of the 
development, and later what seem to have been three intermedi- 
ate. steps, which all play a part in Plato’s theory. The starting 
point can be described as a naive monism. It may be said to be 
characteristic of the ‘ closed society The last step, which I 
describe as critical dualism (or critical conventionalism), is charac- 
teristic of the ‘ open society The fact that there are still many 
who try to avoid making this step may be taken as an indication 
that we are still in the midst of the transition from the closed to 
the open society. (With all this, compare chapter lo.) 

The starting point which I have called ‘ naive monism ’ is 
the stage at which the distinction between natural and normative 
laws is not yet made. Unpleasant experiences are the means 
by which man learns to adjust himself to his environment. No 
distinction is made between sanctions imposed by other men. 



if a normative taboo is broken, and unpleasant experiences 
suffered in the natural environment. Within this stage, we may 
further distinguish between two possibilities. The one can be 
described as a naive naturalism. At this stage regularities, whether 
natural or conventional, are felt to be beyond the possibility 
of any alteration whatever. But I believe that this stage is only 
an abstract possibility which probably was never realized. More 
important is a stage which we can describe as a naive conventionaU 
ism — a stage at which both natural and normative regularities 
are experienced as expressions of, and as dependent upon, the 
decisions of man-like gods or demons. Thus the cycle of the 
seasons, or the peculiarities of the movements of the sun, the 
moon, and the planets, may be interpreted as obeying the ‘ laws ’ 
or ‘ decrees ’ or ® decisions ’ which ‘ rule heaven and earth and 
which were laid down and ‘ pronounced by the creator-god in 
the beginning ’ It is understandable that those who think in 
this way may believe that even the natural laws are open to modi- 
fications, under certain exceptional circumstances ; that with the 
help of magical practices man may sometimes influence them ; 
and that natural regularities are upheld by sanctions, as if they 
were normative. This point is well illustrated by Heraclitus’ 
saying : ^ The sun will not outstep the measure of his path ; or 
else the goddesses of Fate, the handmaids of Justice, will know 
how: to find him.’ 

The breakdown of magic tribalism is closely connected with 
the realization that taboos are different in various tribes, that 
they are imposed and enforced by man, and that they may be 
broken without unpleasant repercussions if one can only escape 
the sanctions imposed by one’s fellow-men. This realization is 
quickened when it is observed that laws are altered and made 
by human lawgivers. I have in mind not only such lawgivers 
as Solon, but also the laws which were made and enforced by 
the common people of democratic cities. These experiences 
may lead to a conscious differentiation between the man-enforced 
normative laws, based on decisions or conventions, and the natural 
regularities which are beyond his power. When this differentia- 
tion is clearly understood, then we can describe the position 
reached as a critical dualism^ or critical conventionalism. In the 
development of Greek philosophy this dualism of facts and norms 
announces itself in terms of the opposition between nature and 

In spite of the fact that this position was reached a long time 


ago by the Sophist Protagoras, an older contemporary of Socrates, 
it is still so little understood that it seems necessary to explain 
it in some detail. First, we must not think that critical dualism 
implies a theory of the historical origin of norms. It has nothing 
to do with the obviously untenable historical assertion that norms 
in the first place were consciously made or introduced by man, 
instead of having been found by him to be simply there (when- 
ever he was first able to find anything of this kind). It therefore 
has nothing to do with the assertion that norms originate with 
man, and not with God, nor does it underrate the importance 
of normative laws. Least of all has it anything to do with the 
assertion that norms, since they are conventional, i.e. man-made, 
are therefore ‘ merely arbitrary Critical dualism merely asserts 
that norms and normative laws can be made and changed by man, 
more especially by a decision or convention to observe them or to 
alter them, and that it is therefore man who is morally responsible 
for them ; not perhaps for the norms which he finds to exist 
in society whqn he first begins to reflect upon them, but for the 
norms which he is prepared to tolerate once he has found out 
that he can do something to alter them. Norms are man-made 
in the sense that we must blame nobody but ourselves fof them ; 
neither nature, nor God. It is our business to improve them 
as much as we can, if we find that they are objectionable. This 
last remark implies that by describing norms as conventional, I 
do not mean that they must be arbitrary, or that one set of 
normative laws will do just as well as another. By saying that 
some systems of laws can be improved, that some laws may be 
better than others, I rather imply that we can compare the exist- 
ing normative laVs (or social institutions) with some standard 
norms which we have decided are worthy of being realized. But 
even these standards are of our making in the sense that our 
decision in favour of them is our own decision, and that we alone 
carry the responsibility for adopting them. The standards are 
not to be found in nature. Nature consists of facts and of 
regularities, and is in itself neither moral nor immoral. It is 
we who impose our standards upon nature, and who in this way 
introduce morals into the natural world ^ in spite of the fact 
that we are part of this world. We are products of nature, but 
nature has made us together with our power of altering the 
world, of foreseeing and of planning for the future, and of making 
far-reaching decisions for which we are morally responsible. Yet 
responsibility, decisions, enter the world of nature only with us. 


Plato's sociology 


It is important for the understanding of this attitude to 
realize that these decisions can never be derived from facts (or 
from statements of facts), although they pertain^^to facts. The 
decision, for instance, to oppose slavery does not depend upon 
the fact that all men are born free and equal, and that no man 
is born in chains. For even if all were born free, some men 
might perhaps try to put others in chains, and they may even 
believe that they ought to put them in chains. And conversely, 
even if men were born in chains, many of us might demand the 
removal of these chains. Or to put this matter more precisely, 
if we consider a fact as alterable — such as the fact that many 
people are suffering from diseases — then we can always adopt a 
number of different attitudes towards this fact : more especially, 
we can decide to make an attempt to alter it ; or we can decide 
to resist any such attempt ; or we can decide not to take action 
at all. 

All moral decisions pertain in this way to some fact or other, 
especially to some fact of social life, and all (alterable) facts of 
social life can give rise to many different decisions. Which shows 
that the decisions can never be derivable from these facts, or from 
a description of these facts. 

But they cannot be derived from another class of facts either ; 
I mean those natural regularities which we describe with the help 
of natural laws. It is perfectly true that our decisions must be 
compatible with the natural laws (including those of human 
physiology and psychology), if they are ever to be carried into 
effect ; for if they run counter to such laws, then they simply 
cannot be carried out. The decision that all should work harder 
and eat less, for example, cannot be carried but beyond a certain 
point for physiological reasons, i.e. because beyond a certain 
point it would be incompatible with certain natural laws of 
physiology. Similarly, the decision that all should work less and 
eat more also cannot be carried out beyond a certain point, for 
various reasons, including the natural laws of economics. (As 
we shall see below, in section iv of this chapter, there are natural 
laws in the social sciences also ; we shall call them ‘ sociological 
laws ’.) 

Thus certain decisions may be eliminated as incapable of being 
executed, because they contradict certain natural laws (or ^ un- 
alterable facts ’). But this does not mean, of course, that any 


decision can be logically derived from such ‘ unalterable facts 
Rather, the situation is this. In view of any fact whatsoever, 
whether it is alterable or unalterable, we can adopt various deci- 
sions — such as to alter it ; to protect it from those who wish to 
alter it ; not to interfere, etc. But if the fact in question is 
unalterable — either because an alteration is impossible in view 
of the existing laws of nature, or because an alteration is for other 
reasons too difficult for those who wish to alter it — then any 
decision to alter it will be simply impracticable ; in fact, any 
decision concerning such a fact will be pointless and without 

Critical dualism thus emphasizes the impossibility of reducing 
decisions or norms to facts ; it can therefore be described as a 
dualism of facts and decisions. 

But this dualism seems to be open to attack. Decisions are 
facts, it may be said. If we decide to adopt a certain norm, 
then the making of this decision is itself a psychological or socio- 
logical fact, and it would be absurd to say that there is nothing 
in common between such facts and other facts. Since it cannot 
be doubted that our decisions about norms, i.e. the norms we 
adopt, clearly depend upon certain psychological facts, such as 
the influence of our upbringing, it seems to be absurd to postulate 
a dualism of facts and decisions, or to say that decisions cannot 
be derived from facts. This objection can be answered by point- 
ing out that we can speak of a ‘ decision ’ in two different senses. 
We may speak of a certain decision which has been submitted, 
or considered, or reached, or been decided upon ; or alterna- 
tively, we may speak of an act of deciding and call this a ‘ deci- 
sion ’. Qnly in the second sense can we describe a decision as 
a fact. The situation is analogous with a number of other 
expressions. In one sense, we may speak of a certain resolution 
which has been submitted to some council, and in the other 
sense, the council’s act of taking it may be spoken of as the 
council’s resolution. Similarly, we may speak of a proposal or 
a suggestion before us, and on the other hand of the act of propos- 
ing or suggesting something, which may also be called ‘ proposal ’ 
or ‘ suggestion ’. An analogous ambiguity is well known in the 
field of descriptive statements. Let us consider the statement : 

‘ Napoleon died on St. Helena.’ It will be useful to distinguish 
this statement from the fact which it describes, and which we 
may call the primary fact, viz. the fact that Napoleon died at 
St. Helena. Now a historian, say Mr. A, when writing the" 

Plato’s sociology 


biography of Napoleon, may make the statement mentioned. 
In doing so, he is describing what we called the primary fact. 
But there is also a secondary fact, which is altogether different 
from the primary one, namely the fact that he made this state- 
ment ; and another historian, Mr. B, when writing the biography 
of Mr. A, may describe this second fact by saying : ‘ Mr. A 
stated that Napoleon died on St. Helena.’ The secondary fact 
described in this way happens to be itself a description. But it 
is a description in a sense of the word that must be distinguished 
from the sense in which we called the statement ‘ Napoleon died 
on St. Helena ’ a description. The making of a description, or 
of a statement, is a sociological or psychological fact. But the 
description made is to be distinguished from the fact that it has been made. 
It cannot even be derived from this fact ; for that would mean 
that we can validly deduce " Napoleon died on St. Helena ’ 
from ' Mr. A stated that Napoleon died on St. Helena ’, which 
obviously we cannot. 

In the field of decisions, the situation is analogous. The 
making of a decision, the adoption of a norm or of a standard, 
is a fact. But the norm or standard which has been adopted, 
is not a fact. That most people agree with the norm ‘ Thou 
shalt not steal ’ is a sociological fact. But the norm ‘ Thou shalt 
not steal ’ is not a fact, and can never be inferred from sentences 
describing facts. This will be seen most clearly when we remem- 
ber that there are always various and even opposite decisions 
possible with respect to a certain relevant fact. For instance, 
in face of the sociological fact that most people adopt the norm 
‘ Thou shalt not steal ’, it is still possible to decide either to adopt 
this norm, or to oppose its adoption ; it is possible to encourage 
those who have adopted the norm, or to discourage them, and 
to persuade them to adopt another norm. To sum up, it is 
impossible to derive a sentence stating a norm or a decision or, say, a 
proposal for a policy from a sentence stating a fact ; this is only another 
way of saying that it is impossible to derive norms or decisions 
or proposals from facts®. 

The statement that norms are man-made (man-made not 
in the sense that they were consciously designed, but in the 
sense that men can judge and alter them — that is to say, in the 
sense that the responsibility for them is entirely ours) has often 
been misunderstood. Nearly all misunderstandings can be traced 
back to one fundamental misapprehension, namely, to the belief 
that ^ convention ’ implies ‘ arbitrariness ’ ; that if we are free 


to choose any system of norms we like, then one system is just 
as good as any other. It must, of course, be admitted that the 
view that norms are conventional or artificial indicates that there 
will be a certain element of arbitrariness involved, i.e. that there 
may be different systems of norms between which there is not 
much to choose (a fact that has been duly emphasized by Prota- 
goras). But artificiality by no means implies full arbitrariness. 
Mathematical calculi, for instance, or symphonies, or plays, 
are highly artificial, yet it does not follow that one calculus or 
symphony or play is just as good as any other. Man has created 
new worlds — of language, of music, of poetry, of science ; and 
the most important of these is -the world of the moral demands, 
for equality, for freedom, and for helping the weak When 
comparing the field of morals with the field of music or of mathe- 
matics, I do not wish to imply that these similarities reach very 
far. There is, more especially, a great difference between moral 
decisions and decisions in the field of art. Many moral decisions 
involve the life and death of other men. Decisions in the field 
of art are much less urgent and important. It is therefore most 
misleading to say that a man decides for or against slavery as he 
may decide for or against certain works of music and literature, 
or that moral decisions are purely matters of taste. Nor are they 
merely decisions about how to make the world more beautiful, 
or about other luxuries of this kind ; they are decisions of much 
greater urgency. (With all this, cp. also chapter 9.) Our com- 
parison is only intended to show that the view that moral decisions 
rest with us does not imply that they are entirely arbitrary. 

The view that norms are man-made is also, strangely enough, 
contested by some who see in this attitude an attack on religion. 
It must be admitted, of course, that this view is an attack on 
certain forms of religion, namely, on the religion of blind 
authority, on magic and tabooism. But I do not think that it 
is in any way opposed to a religion built upon the idea of personal 
responsibility and freedom of conscience. I have in mind, of 
course, especially Christianity, at least as it is usually inter- 
preted in democratic countries ; that Christianity which, as 
against all tabooism, preaches, * Ye have heard that it was said 
by them of old time. . . But I say unto you . ; opposing in 

every case the voice of conscience to mere formal obedience 
and the fulfilment of the law. 

I would not admit that to think of ethical laws as being 
man-made in this sense is incompatible with the religious view 


Plato’s sociology 

that they are given to us by God. Historically, all ethics 
undoubtedly begin with religion ; but I do not now deal with 
historical questions. I do not ask who was the first ethical 
lawgiver. I only maintain that it is we, and we alone, who are 
responsible for adopting or rejecting some suggested moral laws ; 
it is we who must distinguish between the true prophets and 
the false prophets. All kinds of norms have been claimed to 
be God-given. If you accept the ‘ Christian ’ ethics of equality 
and toleration and freedom of conscience only because of its 
claim to rest upon divine authority, then you build on a weak 
basis ; for it has been only too often claimed that inequality is 
willed by God, and that we must not be tolerant with unbelievers. 
If, however, you accept the Christian ethics not because you 
are commanded to do so but because of your conviction that 
it is the right decision to take, then it is you who have decided. 
My insistence that we make the decisions and carry the responsi- 
bility must not be taken to imply that we cannot, or must not, 
be helped by faith, and inspired by tradition or by great 
examples. Nor does it imply that the creation of moral decisions 
is merely a ' natural ’ process, i.e. of the order of physico-chemical 
processes. In fact, Protagoras, the first critical dualist, taught 
that nature does not know norms, and that the introduction of 
norms is due to man, and the most important of human achieve- 
ments. He thus held that ‘institutions and conventions were 
what raised men above the brutes as Burnet ’ puts it. But 
in spite of his insistence that man creates norms, that it is man 
who is the measure of all things, he believed that man could 
achieve the creation of norms only with supernatural help. 
Norms, he taught, are superimposed upon the original or natural 
state of affairs by man, but with the help of Zeus. It is at Zeus’ 
bidding that Hermes gives to men an understanding of justice 
and honour ; and he distributes this gift to all men equally. The 
way in which the first clear statement of critical dualism makes 
room for a religious interpretation of our sense of responsibility 
shows how little critical dualism is opposed to a religious attitude. 
A similar approach can be discerned, I believe, in the historical 
Socrates (see chapter lo) who felt compelled, by his conscience 
as well as by his religious beliefs, to question all authority, and 
who searched for the norms in whose justice he could trust. 
The doctrine of the autonomy of ethics is independent of the 
problem of religion, but compatible with, or perhaps even 
necessary for, any religion which respects individual conscience. 




So much concerning the dualism of facts and decisions, or 
the doctrine of the autonomy of ethics, first advocated by 
Protagoras and Socrates It is, I believe, indispensable for a 
reasonable understanding of our social environment. But of 
course this does not mean that all ‘ social laws i.e. all regularities 
of our social life, are normative and man imposed. On the 
contrary, there are important natural laws of social life also. 
For these, the term sociological laws seems appropriate. It is 
ust the fact that in social life we meet with both kinds of laws, 
natural and normative, which makes it so important to dis- 
tinguish them clearly. 

In speaking of sociological laws or natural laws of social 
life, I do not think so much of the alleged laws of evolution in 
which historicists such as Plato are interested, although if there 
are any such regularities of historical developments, their formu- 
lations would certainly fall under the category of sociological 
laws. Nor do I think so much of the laws of ' human nature 
i.e. of psychological and socio-psychological regularities of human 
behaviour. I have in mind, rather, such laws as are formulated 
by modern economic theories, for instance, the theory of inter- 
national trade, or the theory of the trade cycle. These and other 
important sociological laws are connected with the functioning 
of social institutions. (Cp. chapters 3 and 9.) These laws play 
a role in our social life corresponding to the role played in 
mechanical engineering by, say, the principle of the lever. 
For institutions, like levers, are needed if we want to achieve 
anything which goes beyond the power of our muscles. Like 
machines, institutions multiply our power for good and evil. 
Like machines, they need intelligent supervision by someone 
who understands their way of functioning and, most of all, 
their purpose, since we cannot build them so that they work 
entirely automatically. Furthermore, their construction needs 
some knowledge of social regularities which impose limitations 
upon what can be achieved by institutions (These limitations 
are somewhat analogous, for instance, to the law of conservation 
of energy, which amounts to the statement that we cannot 
build a perpetual motion machine.) But fundamentally, insti- 
tutions are always made by establishing the observance of 
certain norms, designed with a certain aim in mind. This holds 
especially for institutions which are consciously created ; but even 


Plato’s sociology 

those — the vast majority — ^which arise as the undesigned results 
of humto actions (cp. chapter 14) are the indirect results of 
purposive actions of some kind or other ; and their functioning 
depends, largely, on the observance of norms. (Even mechanical 
engines are made, as it were, not only of iron, but by combining 
iron and norms ; i.e. by transforming physical things, but accord- 
ing to certain normative rules, namely their plan or design.) In 
institutions, normative laws and sociological, i.e. natural, laws are 
closely interwoven, and it is therefore impossible to understand 
the functioning of institutions without being able to distinguish 
between these two. (These remarks are intended to suggest 
certain problems rather than to give solutions. More especially, 
the analogy mentioned between institutions and machines must 
not be interpreted as proposing the theory that institutions are 
machines — in some essentialist sense. Of course they are not 
machines. And although the thesis is here proposed that we may 
obtain useful and interesting results if we ask ourselves whether 
an institution does serve any purpose, and what purposes it may 
serve, it is not asserted that every institution serves some definite 
purpose — its essential purpose, as it were.) 


As indicated before, there are many intermediate steps in 
the development from a naive or magical monism to a critical 
dualism wliich clearly realizes the distinction between norms and 
natural laws. Most of these intermediate positions arise from 
the misapprehension that if a norm is conventional or artificial, 
it must be wholly arbitrary. To understand Plato’s position, 
which combines elements of them all, it is necessary to make a 
survey of the three most important of these intermediate posi- 
tions. They are (i) biological naturalism, (2) ethical or juridical 
positivism, and (3) psychological or spiritual naturalism. It is 
interesting that every one of these positions has been used for 
defending ethical views which are radically opposed to each 
other ; more especially, for defending the worship of power, and 
for defending the rights of the weak. 

(i) Biological naturalism, or more precisely, the biological 
form of ethical naturalism, is the theory that in spite of the fact 
that moral laws and the laws of states are arbitrary, there are some 
eternal unchanging laws of nature from which we can derive such 
norms. Food habits, i.e. the number of meals, and the kind of 
food taken, are an example of the arbitrariness of conventions. 


the biological naturalist may argue ; yet there are undoubtedly 
certain natural laws in this field. For instance, a man will die 
if he takes either insufficient or too much food. Thus it seems 
that just as there are realities behind appearances, so behind 
our arbitrary conventions there are some unchanging natural 
laws and especially the laws of biology. 

Biological naturalism has been used not only to defend equali- 
tarianism, but also to defend the anti-equalitarian doctrine of the 
rule of the strong. One of the first to put forward this naturalism 
was the poet Pindar, who used it to support the theory that the 
strong should rule. He claimed that it is a law, valid through- 
out nature, that the stronger does with the weaker whatever he 
likes. Thus laws which protect the weak are not rrierely arbitrary 
but artificial distortions of the true natural law that the strong 
should be free and the weak should be his slave. The view is 
discussed a good deal by Plato ; it is attacked in the GorgiaSy 
a dialogue which is still much influenced by Socrates ; in the 
Republic^ it is put im the mouth of Thrasymachus, and identified 
with ethical individualism (see the next chapter) ; in the LawSy 
Plato is less antagonistic to Pindar’s view ; but he still contrasts 
it with the rule of the wisest, which, he says, is a better principle, 
and just as much in accordance with nature (see also the quota- 
tion later in this chapter). 

The first to put forward a humanitarian or equalitarian 
version of biological naturalism was the Sophist Antiphon. To 
him is due also the identification of nature with truth, and of 
convention with opinion (or ‘delusive opinion’ ^^). Antiphon 
is a radical naturalist. He believes that most norms are not 
merely arbitrary, but directly contrary to nature. Norms, he 
says, are imposed from outside, while the rules of nature are 
inevitable. It is disadvantageous and even dangerous to break 
man-imposed norms if the breach is observed by those who 
impose them ; but there is no inner necessity attached to them, 
and nobody needs to be ashamed of breaking them ; shame and 
punishment are only sanctions arbitrarily imposed from outside. 
On this criticism of conventional morals, Antiphon bases a 
utilitarian ethics. ‘ Of the actions here mentioned, one would 
find many to be contrary to nature. For they involve more 
suffering where there should be less, and less pleasure where 
there could be more, and injury where it is unnecessary.’ At 
the same time, he taught the need for self-control. His equali- 
tarianism he formulates as follows : ‘ The nobly born we revere 



and adore ; but not the lowly born. These are barbarous habits. 
For as to our natural gifts, we are all on an equal footing, on all 
points, whether we now happen to be Greeks or Barbarians. . . 
We all breathe the air through our mouths and nostrils.’ 

A similar equalitarianism was voiced by the Sophist Hippias, 
whom Plato represents as addressing his audience : ‘ Gentlemen, 
I believe that we are all kinsmen and friends and fellow-citizens ; 
if not by conventional law, then by nature. For by nature, like- 
ness is an expression of kinship ; but conventional law, the tyrant 
of mankind, compels us to do much that is against nature.’ 
This spirit was bound up with the Athenian movement against 
slavery (mentioned in chapter 4) to which Euripides gave expres- 
sion : ‘ The name alone brings shame upon the slave who can 
be excellent in every way and truly equal to the free born man.’ 
Elsewhere, he says : ‘ Man’s law of nature is equality.’ And 
Alcidamas, a disciple of Gorgias and a contemporary of Plato, 
wrote : ^ God has made all men free ; no man is a slave by 
nature.’ Similar views are also expressed by Lycophron, another 
member of Gorgias’ school : ‘ The splendour of noble birth is 
imaginary, and its prerogatives are based upon a mere word.’ 

Reacting against this great humanitarian movement — the 
movement of the ‘ Great Generation ’, as I shall call it later 
(chapter 10 j — Plato, and his disciple Aristotle, advanced the 
theory of the biological and moral inequality of man. Greeks 
and barbarians are unequal by nature ; the opposition between 
them corresponds to that between natural masters and natural 
slaves. The natural inequality of men is one of the reasons for 
their living together, for their natural gifts are complementary. 
Social life begins with natural inequality, and it must continue 
upon that foundation. I shall discuss these doctrines later in 
more detail. At present, they may serve to show how biological 
naturalism can be used to support the most divergent ethical 
doctrines. In the light of our previous analysis of the impossibility 
, of basing norms upon facts this result is not unexpected. 

Such considerations, however, are perhaps not sufficient to 
defeat a theory as popular as biological naturalism ; I therefore 
propose two more direct criticisms. First, it must be admitted 
that certain forms of behaviour may be described as more 
‘ natural ’ than other forms ; for instance, going naked .or eating 
only raw food ; and some people think that this in itself justifies 
the choice of these forms. But in this sense it certainly is not 
natural to interest oneself in art, or science, or even in arguments 


in favour of naturalism. The choice of conformity with " nature ' 
as a supreme standard leads ultimately to consequences which 
few will be prepared to face ; it does not lead to a more natural 
form of civilization, but to beastliness The second criticism 
is more important. The biological naturalist assumes that he can 
derive his norms from the natural laws which determine the con- 
ditions of health, etc., if he does not naively believe that we need 
adopt no norms whatever but simply live according to the ® laws 
of nature He overlooks the fact that he makes a choice, a 
decision ; that it is possible that some other people cherish certain 
things more than their health (for instance, the many who have 
consciously risked their lives for medical research). And he is 
therefore mistaken if he believes that he has not made a decision, 
or that he has derived his norms from biological laws. 

(2) Ethical positivism shares with the biological form of 
ethical naturalism the belief that we must try to reduce norms 
to facts. But the facts are this time sociological facts, namely, 
the actual existing norms. Positivism maintains that there are 
no other norms but the laws which have actually been set up 
(or ‘ posited ’) and which have therefore a positive existence. 
Other standards are considered as unreal imaginations. The 
existing laws are the only possible standards of goodness : what 
is, is good, (Might is right.) According to some forms of this 
theory, it is a gross misunderstanding to believe that the indi- 
vidual can judge the norms of society ; rather, it is society 
which provides the code by which the individual must be 

As a matter of historical fact, ethical (or moral, or juridical) 
positivism has usually been conservative, or even authoritarian ; 
and it has often invoked the authority of God. Its arguments 
depend, I believe, upon the alleged arbitrariness of norms. We 
must believe in existing norms, it claims, because there are no 
better norms which we may find for ourselves. In reply to this 
it might be asked : What about this norm * We must believe etc.’ ? 
If this is only an existing norm, then it does not count as an 
argument in favour of these norms ; but if it is an appeal to our 
insight, then it admits that we can, after all, find norms bur- 
selves. And if we are told to accept norms on authority because 
we cannot judge them, then neither can we judge whether the 
claims of the authority are justified, or whether we may not 
follow a false prophet. And if it is held that there are no false 
prophets because laws are arbitrary anyhow, so that the main 



thing is to have some laws, then we may ask ourselves why it 
should be so important to have laws at* all ; for if there are no 
further standards, why then should we not choose to have no 
laws ? (These remarks may perhaps indicate the reasons for 
my belief that authoritarian or conservative principles are 
usually an expression of ethical nihilism ; that is to say, 
of an extreme moral scepticism, of a distrust of man and of 
his possibilities.) 

While the theory of natural rights has, in the course of 
history, often been proffered in support of equalitarian and 
humanitarian ideas, the positivist school was usually in the 
opposite camp. But this is not much more than an accident. 
As has been shown, ethical naturalism may be used with very 
different intentions. (It has recently been used for confusing 
the whole issue by advertising certain allegedly ^ natural ’ rights 
and obligations as ‘ natural laws \) Conversely, there are also 
humanitarian and progressive positivists. For if all norms are 
arbitrary, why not be tolerant? This is a typical attempt to 
justify a humanitarian attitude along positivist lines. 

(3) Psychological or spiritual naturalism is in a way a com- 
bination of the two previous views, and it can best be explained 
by means of an argument against the one-sidedness of these 
views. The ethical positivist is right, this argument runs, if he 
emphasizes that all norms are conventional, i.e. a product of 
man, and of human society ; but he overlooks the fact that 
they are therefore an expression of the psychological or spiritual 
nature of man, and of the nature of human society. The 
biological naturalist is right in assuming that there are certain 
natural aims or ends, from which we can derive natural norms ; 
but he overlooks the fact that our natural aims are not neces- 
tarily such aims as health, pleasure, or food, shelter or propaga- 
sion. Human nature is such that man, or at least some men, 
do not want to live by bread alone, that they seek higher aims, 
spiritual aims. We may thus derive man’s true natural aims 
from his own true nature, which is spiritual, and social. And 
we may, further, derive the natural norms of life from his 
natural ends. 

This plausible position was, I believe, first formulated by 
Plato, who was here under the influence of the Socratic doctrine 
of the soul, i.e. of Socrates’ teaching that the spirit matters more 
than the flesh Its appeal to our sentiments is undoubtedly 
very much stronger than that of the other two positions. It 


can however be combined, like these, with any ethical decision ; 
with a humanitarian attitude as well as with the worship of 
power. Tor we can, for instance, decide to treat all men as 
participating in this spiritual human nature ; or we can insist 
like Heraclitus, that the many * fill their bellies like the beasts 
and are therefore of an inferior nature, and that only a few 
elect ones are worthy of the spiritual community of men. 
Accordingly, spiritual naturalism has been much used, and 
especially by Plato, to justify the natural prerogatives of the 
' noble ’ or ^ elect ’ or ‘ wise ’ or of the ‘ natural leader 
(Plato’s attitude is discussed in the following chapters.) On 
the other hand, it has been used by Christian and other 
humanitarian forms of ethics, for instance by Paine and by 
Kant, to demand the recognition of the * natural rights ’ of 
every human individual. It is clear that spiritual naturalism 
can be used to defend any ' positive i.e. existing, norm. For it 
can always be argued that these norms would not be in force if 
they did not express some traits of human nature. In this way, 
spiritual naturalism can, in practical problems, become one with 
positivism, in spite of their traditional opposition. In fact, this 
form of naturalism is so wide and so vague that it may be used 
to defend anything. There is nothing that has ever occurred to 
man which could not be claimed to be ^ natural ’ ; for if it were 
not in his nature, how could it have occurred to him? 

Looking back at this brief survey, we may perhaps discern 
two main tendencies which stand in the way of adopting a 
critical dualism. The first is a general tendency towards 
monism that is to say, towards the reduction of norms to 
facts. Tire second lies deeper, and it possibly forms the back- 
ground of the first. It is based upon our fear of admitting to 
ourselves that the responsibility for our ethical decisions is 
entirely ours and cannot be shifted to anybody else ; neither to 
God, nor to nature, nor to society, nor to history. All these 
ethical theories attempt to find somebody, or perhaps some 
argument, to take the burden from us But we cannot shirk 
this responsibility. Whatever authority we may accept, it is we 
who accept it. We only deceive ourselves if we do not realize 
this simple point. 


We now turn to a more detailed analysis of Plato’s naturalism 
and its relation to his historicism. Plato, of course, does not 

Plato’s sociology 


always use the term ‘ nature ’ in the same sense. The most 
important meaning which he attaches to it is, I believe, prac- 
tically identical with that which he attaches to the term ^ essence 
This way of using the term ‘ nature ’ still survives among essen- 
tialists even in our day ; they still speak, for instance, of the 
nature of mathematics, or of the nature of inductive inference, 
or of the * nature of happiness and misery ’ When used by 
Plato in this way, nature ’ means nearly the same as * Form ’ 
or ‘ Idea ’ ; for the Form or Idea of a thing, as shown above, 
is also its essence. The main difference between natures and 
Forms or Ideas seems to be this. The Form or Idea of a sensible 
thing is, as we have seen, not in that thing, but separated from 
it ; it is its forefather, its primogenitor ; but this Form or father 
passes something on to the sensible things which are its offspring 
or race, namely, their nature. This ‘ nature ’ is thus the inborn 
or original quality of a thing, and in so far, its inherent essence ; 
it is the original power or disposition of a thing, and it deter- 
mines those of its properties which are the basis of its resemblance 
to, or of its innate participation in, its Form or Idea. 

‘ Natural ’ is, accordingly, what is innate or original or 
divine in a thing, while ‘ artificial ’ is that which has been later 
changed by man or added or imposed by him, through external 
compulsion. Plato frequently insists that all products of human 
‘ art ’ at their best are only copies of ‘ natural ’ sensible things. 
But since these in turn are only copies of the divine Forms or 
Ideas, the products of art are only copies of copies, twice removed 
from reality, and therefore less good, less real, and less true 
than even the (natural) things in flux. We see from this that 
Plato agrees with Antiphon in at least one point, namely in 
assuming that the opposition between nature and convention or 
art corresponds to that between truth and falsehood, between 
reality and appearance, between primary or original and 
secondary or man-made things, and to that between the objects 
of rational knowledge and those of delusive opinion. The 
opposition corresponds also, according to Plato, to that between 
‘ the offspring of divine workmanship ’ or ‘ the products of 
divine art ’, and ‘ what man makes out of them, i.e. the products 
of human art All those things whose intrinsic value Plato 
wishes to emphasize he therefore claims to be natural as opposed 
to artificial. Thus he insists in the Laws that the soul has to 
be considered prior to all material things, and that it must 
therefore be said to exist by nature : ‘ Nearly everybody . . is 


ignorant of the power of the soul, and especially of her oiigin. 
They do not know that she is among the first of things, and 
prior to all bodies, . . In using the word ‘‘ nature ” one wants 
to describe the things that were created first ; but if it turns out 
that it is the soul which is prior to other things (and not, perhaps, 
fire or air), . . then the soul, beyond all others, may be asserted 
to exist by nature, in the truest sense of the word.’ (Plato 
here re-affirms his old theory that the soul is more closely akin 
to the Forms or Ideas than the body ; a theory which is also 
the basis of his doctrine of immortality.) 

But Plato not only teaches that the soul is prior to other 
things and therefore exists ' by nature ’ ; he uses the term 
^ nature if applied to man, frequently also as a name for 
spiritual powers or gifts or natural talents, so that we can say 
that a man’s ‘ nature ’ is much the same as his ^ soul ’ ; it is 
the divine principle by which he participates in the Form or 
Idea, in the divine primogenitor of his race. And the term 
‘ race again, is frequently used in a very similar sense. Since 
a ‘ race ’ is united by being the offspring of the same primo- 
genitor, it must also be united by a common nature. Thus 
the terms ‘ nature ’ and ‘ race ’ are frequently used by Plato as 
synonyms, for instance, when he speaks of the ‘ race of philoso- 
phers ’ and of those who have ‘ philosophic natures ’ ; so that 
both these terms are closely akin to the terms ‘ essence ’ and 
‘ soul 

Plato’s theory of ^ nature ’ opens another approach to his 
historicist methodology. Since it seems to be the task of science 
in general to examine the true nature of its objects, it is the 
task of a social or political science to examine the nature of 
human society, and of the state. But the nature of a thing, 
according to Plato, is its origin ; or at least it is determined 
by its origin. Thus the method of any science will be the 
investigation of the origin of things (of their ‘causes’). This 
principle, when applied to the science of society and of politics, 
leads to the demand that the origin of society and of the state 
must be examined. History therefore is not studied for its own 
sake but serves as the method of the social sciences. This is the 
historicist methodology. 

What is the nature of human society, of the state ? Accord- 
ing to historicist methods, this fundamental question of sociology 
must be reformulated in this way : what is the origin of society 
and of the state ? The reply given by Plato in the Republic as 

Plato’s sociology 


well as in the Laws agrees with the position described above 
as spiritual naturalism. The origin of society is a convention, 
a social contract. But it is not only that ; it is, rather, a natural 
convention, i.e. a convention which is based upon human 
nature, and more precisely, upon the social nature of man. 

This social nature of man has its origin in the imperfection 
of the human individual. In opposition to Socrates Plato 
teaches that the human individual cannot be self-sufficient, 
owing to the limitations inherent in human nature. Although _ 
Plato insists that there are very different degrees of human 
perfection, it turns out that even the very few comparatively 
perfect men still depend upon others (who are less perfect) ; 
if for nothing else, then for having the dirty work, the manual 
work, done by them 2®. In this way, even the ' rare and 
uncommon natures ’ who approach perfection depend upon 
society, upon the state. They can reach perfection only through 
the state and in the state ; the perfect state must offer them the 
proper ‘ social habitat without which they must grow corrupt 
and degenerate. The state therefore must be placed higher 
than the individual since only the state can be self-sufficient 
(' autark ’), perfect, and able to make good the necessary imper- 
fecdon of the individual. 

Society and the individual are thus interdependent. The 
one owes its existence to the other. Society owes its existence 
to human nature, and especially to its lack of self-sufficiency ; 
and the individual owes his existence to society, since he is not 
self-sufficient. But within this relationship of interdependence, 
the superiority of the state over the individual manifests itself 
in various ways ; for instance, in the fact that the seed of the 
decay and disunion of a perfect state does not spring up in 
the state itself, but rather in its individuals ; it is rooted in the 
imperfection of the human soul, of human ^ nature ; or more 
precisely, in the fact that the race of men is liable to degenerate. 
To this point, the origin of political decay, and its dependence 
upon the degeneration of human nature, I shall return presently ; 
but I wish first to make a few comments on some of the charac- 
teristics of Plato’s sociology, especially upon his version of the 
theory of the social contract, and upon his view of the state 
as a super-individual, i.e. his version of the biological or organic 
theory of the state. 

Whether Protagoras first proposed a theory that laws originate 
with a social contract, or whether Lycophron (whose theory 


will be discussed in the next chapter) was the first to do so, is 
not certain. In any case, the idea is closely related to Prota- 
goras’ conventionalism. The fact that Plato consciously com- 
bined some conventionalist ideas, and even a version of the 
contract theory, with his naturalism, is in itself an indication 
that conventionalism in its original form did not maintain that 
laws are wholly arbitrary ; and Plato’s remarks on Protagoras 
confirm this How conscious Plato was of a conventionalist 
element in his version of naturalism can be seen from a passage 
in the Laws. Plato there gives a list of the various principles 
upon which political authority might be based, mentioning 
Pindar’s biological naturalism (see above), i.e. ' the principle 
that the stronger shall rule and the weaker be ruled which 
he describes as a principle ‘ according to nature, as the Theban 
poet Pindar once stated Plato contrasts this principle with 
another which he recommends by showing that it combines 
conventionalism with naturalism : ‘ But there is also a . . claim 
which is the greatest principle of all, namely, that the wise shall 
lead and rule, and that the ignorant shall follow ; and this, 
O Pindar, wisest of poets, is surely not contrary to nature, but 
according to nature ; for what it demands is not external com- 
pulsion but the truly natural sovereignty of a law which is 
based upon mutual consent.’ 

In the Republic we find elements of the conventionalist con- 
tract theory in a similar way combined with elements of natural- 
ism (and utilitarianism). ‘ The city originates we hear there, 

‘ because we are not self-sufficient ; . . or is there another origin 
of settlement in cities ? . . Men gather into one settlement many 
, . helpers, since they need many things. . . And when they 
share their goods with one another, the one giving, the other par- 
taking, does not every one expect in this way to further his own 
interest? ’ Thus the inhabitants gather in order that each 
may further his own interest ; which is an element of the contract 
theory. But behind this stands the fact that they are not self- 
sufficient, a fact of human nature ; which is an element of 
naturalism. And this element is developed further. ‘ By nature, 
no two of us are exactly alike. Each has his peculiar nature, 
some being fit for one kind of work and some for another. . . 
Is it better that a man should work in many crafts or that he 
should work in one only? . , Surely, more will be produced 
and better and more easily if each man works in one occupation 
only, according to his natural gifts.’ 


Plato’s sociology 

In this way, the economic principle of the division of labour 
is introduced (reminding .us of the affinity between Plato’s 
historicism and the materialist interpretation of history) . But this 
principle is based here upon an element of biological naturalism, 
namely, upon the natural inequality of men. At first, this idea is 
introduced inconspicuously and, as it were, innocently. But we 
shall see in the next chapter that it has far-reaching consequences ; 
indeed, the only really important division of labour turns out to 
be that between rulers and ruled, claimed to be based upon the 
natural inequality of masters and slaves, of wise and ignorant. 

We have seen that there is a considerable element of con- 
ventionalism as well as of biological naturalism in Plato’s posi- 
tion ; an observation which is not surprising when we consider 
that this position is, on the whole, that of spiritual naturalism 
which, because of its vagueness, easily allows for all such com- 
binations. This spiritual version of naturalism is perhaps best 
formulated in the Laws, ‘ Men say ’, says Plato, ^ that the 
greatest and most beautiful things are natural . . and the lesser 
things artificial.’ So far he agrees ; but he then attacks the 
materialists who say ‘ that fire and water, and earth and air, 
all exist by nature . . and that all normative laws are altogether 
unnatural and artificial and based upon superstitions which are 
not true.’ Against this view, he shows first, that it is not bodies 
nor elements, but the soul which truly ‘ exists by nature ’ 

(I have quoted this passage above) ; and from this he concludes 
that order, and law, must also be by nature, since they spring 
from the soul : * If the soul is prior to the body, then things 
dependent upon the soul ’ (i.e. spiritual matters) ‘ are also prior 
to those dependent upon body. . . And the soul orders and 
directs all things.’ This supplies the theoretical background for 
the doctrine that ‘ laws and purposeful institutions exist by 
nature, and not by anything lower than nature, since they are 
born of reason and true thought.’ This is a clear statement of 
spiritual naturalism ; and it is combined as well with positivist 
beliefs of a conservative kind : ‘ Thoughtful and prudent legisla- 
tion will find a most powerful help because the laws will remain 
unchanged once they have been laid down in writing.’ 

From all this it can be seen that arguments derived from 
Plato’s spiritual naturalism are quite incapable of helping to 
answer any question which may arise concerning the ‘just’ or 
‘ natural ’ character of any particular law. Spiritual naturalism 
is much too vague to be applied to any practical problem. It 


cannot do much beyond providing some general arguments in 
favour of conservativism. In practice, everything is left to the 
wisdom of the great lawgiver (a godlike philosopher, whose 
picture, especially in the Laws, is undoubtedly a self-portrait ; 
see also chapter 8). As opposed to his spiritual naturalism, 
however, Plato’s theory of the interdependence of society and 
the individual furnishes more concrete results ; and so does 
his anti-equalitarian biological naturalism. 


It has been indicated above that because of its self-sufficiency, 
the ideal state appears to Plato as the perfect individual, and 
the individual citizen, accordingly, as an imperfect copy of the 
state. This view which makes of the state a kind of super- 
organism or Leviathan introduces into the Occident the so-called 
organic or biological theory of the state. The principle of this 
theory will be criticized later Here I wish first to draw atten- 
tion to the fact that Plato does not defend the theory, and indeed 
hardly formulates it explicitly. But it is clearly enough implied ; 
in fact, the fundamental analogy between the state and the 
human individual is one of the standard topics of the Republic. 
It is worth mentioning, in this connection, that the analogy 
serves to further the analysis of the individual rather than that 
of the state. One could perhaps defend the view that Plato 
(perhaps under the influence of Alcmaeon) does not offer so 
much a biological theory of the state as a political theory of the 
human individual This view, I think, is fully in accordance 
with his doctrine that the individual is lower than the state, 
and a kind of imperfect copy of it. In the very place in which 
Plato introduces his fundamental analogy, it is used in this way; 
that is to say, as a method of explaining and elucidating the 
individual. The city, it is said, is greater than the individual, 
and therefore easier to examine. Plato gives this as his reason 
for suggesting that ‘ we should begin our inquiry '’ (namely, into 
the nature of justice) * in the city, and continue it afterwards in 
the individual, always watching for points of similarity. . . May 
we not expect in this way to discern more easily what we are 

looking for ? ’ _ _ -ni / j 

From his way of introducing it we can sec that Plato (and 

perhaps his readers) took his fundamental analogy for granted. 
This may well be a symptom of nostalgia, of a longing for a 
unified and harmonious, an ‘ organic ’ state : for a society of a 


Plato’s sociology 

more primitive kind. (See chapter lo.) The city state ought 
to remain small, he says, and should grow only as long as its 
increase does not endanger its unity. The whole city should, 
by its nature, be one, and not many.^® Plato thus emphasizes the 
* oneness ’ or individuality of his city. But he also emphasizes the 
® manyness ’ of the human individual. In his analysis of the in- 
dividual soul, and of its division into three parts, reason, energy, 
and animal instincts, corresponding to the three classes of Hs 
state, the guardians, warriors, and workers (who still continue to 
‘ fill their bellies like the beasts ’, as Heraclitus had said), Plato 
goes so far as to oppose these parts to one another as if they were 
distinct and conflicting persons ’ ‘ We are thus told says 

Grote, * that though man is apparently One, he is in reality 
Many . . though the perfect Commonwealth is apparently 
Many, it is in reality One.’ It is clear that this corresponds 
to the Ideal character bf the state of which the individual is 
a kind of imperfect copy. Such an emphasis upon oneness 
and wholeness — especially of the state ; or perhaps of the world 
— may be described as ‘ holism Plato’s holism, I believe, is 
closely related to the tribal collectivism mentioned in earlier 
chapters. Plato was longing for the lost unity of tribal life. A 
life of change, in the midst of a social revolution, appeared to 
him unreal. Only a stable whole, the permanent collective, has 
reality, not the passing individuals. It is ' natural ’ for the 
individual to subserve the whole, which is no mere assembly of 
individuals, but a ‘ natural ’ unit of a higher order. 

Plato gives many excellent sociological descriptions of this 
‘ natural ’, i.e. tribal and collectivist, mode of social life : ‘ The 
law he writes in the Republic^ ‘ . . is designed to bring about 
the welfare of the state as a whole, fitting the citizens into one 
unit, by means of both persuasion and force. It makes them all 
share in whatever benefit ' each of them can contribute to the 
community. And it is actually the law which creates for the 
state men of the right frame of mind ; not for the purpose of letting 
them loose, so that everybody can go his own way, but in order 
to utilize them aU for welding the city together.’ That there 
is in this holism an emotional sestheticism, a longing for beauty, 
can be seen, for instance, from a remark in the Laws : ‘ Every 
artist , , executes the part for the sake of the whole, and not 
the whole for the sake of the part.’ At the same place, we also 
find a truly classical formulation of political holism : ^ You are 
created for the sake of the whole, and not the whole for the 


sake of you/ Within this whole, the different individuals, and 
groups of individuals, with their natural inequalities, must 
render their specific and very unequal services. 

All this would indicate that Plato’s. theory was a form of the 
organic theory of the state, even if he had not sometimes spoken 
of the state as an organism. But since he did this, there can be 
no doubt left that he must be described as an exponent, or 
rather, as one of the originators, of this theory. His version of this 
theory may be characterized as a personalist or psychological 
one, since he describes the state not in a general way as similar 
to some organism or other, but as analogous to the human 
individual, and more specifically to the human soul. Especially 
the disease of the state, the dissolution of its unity, corresponds 
to the disease of the human soul, of human nature. In fact, 
the disease of the state is not only correlated with, but is directly 
produced by, the corruption of human nature, more especially 
of the members of the ruling class. Every single one of the 
typical stages in the degeneration of the state is brought about 
by a corresponding stage in the degeneration of the human 
soul, of human nature, of the human race. And since this 
moral degeneration is interpreted as based upon racial degenera- 
tion, we might say that the biological element in Plato’s 
naturalism turns out, in the end, to have the most important 
part in the foundation of his historicism. For the history of 
the downfall of the first or perfect state is nothing but the 
history of the biological degeneration of the race of men. 


It was mentioned in the last chapter that the problem of the 
beginning of change and decay is one of the major difficulties 
of Plato’s historicist theory of society. The first, the natural 
and perfect city-state, cannot be supposed to carry within itself 
the germ of dissolution, ‘ for a city which carries within itself 
the germ of dissolution is for that very reason imperfect ’ 3®. 
Plato tries to get over the difficulty by laying the blame on his 
universally valid Iiistorical, biological, and perhaps even cosmo- 
logical, evolutionary law of degeneration, rather than on the 
particular constitution of the first or perfect city ^ Every- 
thing that has been generated must decay.’ But this general 
theory does not provide a fully satisfactory solution, for it does 
not explain why even a sufficiently perfect state cannot escape 
the law of decay. And indeed, Plato hints that historical decay 


Plato’s sociology 

might have been avoided had the rulers of the first or natural 
state been trained philosophers. But they were not. They were 
not trained (as he demands that the rulers of his heavenly city 
should be) in mathematics and dialectics ; and in order to 
avoid degeneration, they would have needed to be initiated into 
the higher mysteries of eugenics, of the science of ‘ keeping pure 
the race of the guardians and of avoiding the mixture of the 
noble metals in their veins with the base metals of the workers. 
But these higher mysteries are difficult to reveal. Plato dis- 
tinguishes sharply, in the fields of mathematics, acoustics, and 
astronomy, between mere (delusive) opinion which is tainted by 
experience, and which cannot reach exactness, and is altogether 
on a low level, and pure rational knowledge, which is free from 
sensual experience and exact. This distinction he applies also 
to the field of eugenics. A merely empirical art of breeding 
cannot be precise, i.e. it cannot keep the race perfectly pure. 
This explains the downfall of the original city which is so good, 
i.e. so similar to its Form or Idea, that ‘ a city thus constituted 
can hardly be shaken ’. ‘ But this Plato continues, ‘ is the 

way it dissolves and he proceeds to outline his theory of 
breeding, of the Number, and of the Fall of Man. 

All plants and animals, he tells us, must be bred according 
to definite periods of time, if barrenness and degeneration are to 
be avoided. Some knowledge of these periods, which are con- 
nected with the length of the life of the race, will be available to 
the rulers of the best state, and they will apply it to the breeding 
of the master race. It will not, however, be rational, but only 
empirical knowledge ; it will be ‘ calculation aided by {or based on) 
perception ’ (cp. the next quotation). But as we have just seen, 
perception and experience can never be exact and reliable, since 
its objects are not the pure Forms or Ideas, but the world of things 
in flux ; and since the guardians have no better kind of know- 
ledge at their disposal, the breed cannot be kept pure, and racial 
degeneration must creep in. This is how Plato explains the 
matter : ‘ Concerning your own race ’ (i.e. the race of men, as 
opposed to animals), ‘ the rulers of the city whom you have 
trained may be wise enough ; but since they are using calcula- 
tion aided by perception, they will not hit, accidentally, upon the 
way of getting either good offspring, or none at all.’ Lacking a 
purely rational method,®® ‘ they will blunder, and some day they 
will beget children in the wrong way In what follows next, 
Plato hints, rather mysteriously, that there is now a way to avoid 


this through the discovery of a purely rational and mathematical 
science which possesses in the ' Platonic Number ’ (a number 
determining the True Period of the human race) the key to the 
master law of higher eugenics. But since the guardians of old 
times were ignorant of Pythagorean number-mysticism, and with 
it, of this key to the higher knowledge of breeding, the otherwise 
perfect natural state could not escape decay. After partially 
revealing the secret of his mysterious Number, Plato continues : 

‘ This . . number is master over better or worse births ; and 
whenever these guardians of yours — who are ignorant of these 
matters — unite bride and bridegroom in the wrong manner 
the children will have neither good natures nor good luck. Even 
the best of them • . will prove unworthy when succeeding to the 
power of their fathers ; and as soon as they are guardians, they 
will not listen to us any more ’ — that is, in matters of musical and 
gymnastic education, and, as Plato especially emphasizes, in the 
supervision of breeding. ^ Hence rulers will be appointed who 
are not altogether fit for their task as guardians ; namely to watch, 
and to test, the metals in the races (which are Hesiod’s races as 
well as yours), gold and silver and bronze and iron. So iron will 
mingle with silver and bronze with gold and from this mixture, 
Variation will be born and absurd Irregularity ; and whenever 
these are born they will beget Strife and Hostility. And this is 
how we must describe the ancestry and birth of Dissension, 
wherever she arises.’ 

This is Plato’s story of the Number and of the Fall of Man. 
It is the basis of his historicist sociology, especially of his funda- 
mental law of social revolutions discussed in the last chapter 
For racial degeneration explains the origin of disunion in the 
ruling class, and with it, the origin of all historical development. 
The internal disunion of human nature, the schism of the soul, 
leads to the schism of the ruling class. And as with Heraclitus, 
war, class war, is the father and promoter of all change, and of 
the history of man, which is nothing but the history of the 
breakdown of society. We see that Plato’s idealist historicism 
ultimately rests not upon a spiritual, but upon a biological basis ; 
it rests upon a kind of meta-biology of the race of men. 
Plato was not only a naturalist who proffered a biological theory 
of the state, he was also the first to proiffer a biological and 
racial theory of social dynamics, of political history, * The 
Platonic Number says Adam * is thus the setting in which 
Plato’s Philosophy of History ” is framed/ 


Plato’s sociology 

It isj I think, appropriate to conclude this sketch of Plato’s 
descriptive sociology with a summary and an evaluation. 

Plato succeeded in giving an astonishingly true, though of 
course somewhat idealized, reconstruction of an early Greek 
tribal and collectivist society similar to that of Sparta. An 
analysis of the forces, especially the economic forces, which 
threaten the stability of such a society, enables him to describe 
the general policy as well as the social institutions which are 
necessary for arresting it. And he gives, -furthermore, a rational 
reconstruction of the economic and historical development of 
the Greek city-states. 

These achievements are impaired by his hatred of the society 
in which he was living, and by his romantic love for the old 
tribal form of social life. It is this attitude which led him to 
formulate an untenable law of historical development, namely, 
the law of universal degeneration or decay. And the same 
attitude is also responsible for the irrational, fantastic, and 
romantic elements of his otherwise excellent analysis. On the 
other hand, it was just his personal interest and his partiality 
which sharpened his eye and so made his achievements possible. 
He derived his historicist theory from the fantastic philosophical 
doctrine that the changing visible world is only a decaying copy 
of an unchanging invisible world. But this ingenious attempt 
to combine a historicist pessimism with an ontological optimism 
leads, when elaborated, to difficulties. These difficulties forced 
upon him the adoption of a biological naturalism, leading 
(together with ‘ psychologism ’ i.e. the theory that society 
depends on the ^ human nature ’ of its members) to mysticism 
and superstition, culminating in a pseudo-rational mathe- 
matical theory of breeding. They even endangered the impres- 
sive unity of his theoretical edifice. 


Looking back at this edifice, we may briefly consider its 
ground-plan This ground-plan, conceived by a great archi- 
tect, exhibits a fundamental metaphysical dualism in Plato’s 
thought. In the field of logic, this dualism presents itself as the 
opposition between the universal and the particular. In the 
field of mathematical speculation, it presents itself as the opposi- 
tion between the One and the Many. In the field of epistemology, 
it is the opposition between rational knowledge based on pure 
thought, and opinion based on particular experiences. In the 


field of ontologyj it is the opposition between the onCj original, 
invariable, and true, reality, and the many, varying, and 
delusive, appearances ; between pure being and becoming, or 
more precisely, changing. In the field of cosmology, it is the 
opposition between that which generates and that which is 
generated, and which must decay. In ethics, it is the opposition 
between the good, i.e. that which preserves, and the evil, i.e. 
that which corrupts. In politics, it is the opposition between 
the one collective, the state, which may attain perfection and 
autarchy, and the great mass of the people — the many individuals, 
the particular men who must remain imperfect and dependent, 
and‘ whose particularity is to be suppressed for the sake of the 
unity of the state (see the next chapter). And this whole dualist 
philosophy, I believe, originated from the urgent wish to explain 
the contrast between the vision of an ideal society, and the hateful 
actual state of affairs in the social field — the contrast between a 
stable society, and a society in the process of revolution. 

O S I.E. — VOL I 


Plato’s political programme 


The analysis of Plato’s sociology makes it easy to present 
his political programme. His fundamental demands can be 
expressed in either of two formulae, the first corresponding to his 
idealist theory of change and rest, the second to his naturalism. 
The idealist formula is : Arrest all political change ! Change ' is 
evil, rest divine All change can be arrested if the state is made 
an exact copy of its original, i.e. of the Form or Idea of the city. 
Should it be asked how this is practicable, we can reply with the 
naturalistic formula : Back to nature ! Back to the original state 
of our forefathers, the primitive state founded in accordance with 
human nature, and therefore stable ; back to the tribal patriarchy 
of the time before the Fall, to the natural class rule of the wise 
few over the ignorant many, 

I believe that practically all the elements of Plato’s political 
programme can be derived from these demands. They are, in 
turn, based upon his historicism ; and they have to be combined 
with his sociological doctrines concerning the conditions for the 
stability of class rule. The principal elements I have in mind 
are : 

{A) The strict division of the classes ; i.e. the ruling class 
consisting of herdsmen and watch-dogs must be strictly separated 
from the human cattle. 

(j 5) The identification of the fate of the state with that of 
the ruling class ; the exclusive interest in this class, and in its 
unity ; and subservient to this unity, the rigid rules for breeding 
and educating this class, and the strict supervision and collectiviza- 
tion of the interests of its members. 

From these principal elements, others can be derived, for 
instance the following : / 

(C) The ruling class has a monopoly of things like military 
virtues and training, and of the right to carry arms and to receive 
education of any kind ; but it is excluded from any participation 
in economic activities, and especially from earning money. 

(D) There must be a censorship of all intellectual activities 
of the ruling class, and a continual propaganda aiming at mould- 



ing and unifying their minds. All innovation in education, legis- 
lation, and religion must be prevented or suppressed. 

[E) The state must be self-sufficient. It must aim at economic 
autarchy ; for otherwise the rulers would either be dependent 
upon traders, or become traders themselves. The first of these 
alternatives would undermine their power, the second their unity 
and the stability of the state. 

This programme can, I think, be fairly described as totali- 
tarian. And it is certainly founded upon a historicist sociology^ 

But is that all? Are there no other features of Plato's 
programme, elements which are neither totalitarian nor founded 
upon historicism ? What about Plato's ardent desire for Goodness 
and Beauty, or his love of Wisdom and of Truth ? What about 
his demand that the wise, the philosophers, should rule ? What 
about his hopes of making the citizens of his state virtuous as 
well as happy? And what about his demand that the state 
should be founded upon Justice ? Even writers who criticize 
Plato believe that his political doctrine, in spite of certain 
similarities, is clearly distinguished from modern totalitarianism 
by these aims of his, the happiness of the citizens, and the rule 
of j‘ustice. Grossman, for instance, whose critical attitude can 
be gauged from his remark that ^ Plato's philosophy is the most 
savage and most profound attack upon liberal ideas which history 
can show ’ seems still to believe that Plato's plan is ‘ the building 
of a perfect state in which every citizen is really happy Another 
example is Joad who discusses the similarities between Plato's 
programme and that of fascism at some length, but who asserts 
that there are fundamental differences, since in Plato's best 
state ‘ the ordinary man . . achieves such happiness as appertains 
to his nature *, and since this state is built upon the ideas of 
‘ an absolute good and an absolute justice ’. 

In spite of such arguments I believe that Plato's political 
programme, far from being morally superior to totalitarianism, 
is fundamentally identical with it. I believe that the objections 
against this view are based upon an ancient and deep-rooted 
prejudice in favour of idealizing Plato. That Crossman has 
done much to point out and to destroy this inclination may be 
seen from this statement : ^ Before the Great War . . Plato . . 
was rarely condemned outright as a reactionary, resolutely 
opposed to every principle of the liberal creed. Instead he was 
elevated to a higher rank, . . removed from practical life, 
dreaming of a transcendent City of God/ ® Crossman himself. 


Plato's politics 

however, is not free from that tendency which he so clearly 
exposes. It is interesting th^tt this tendency could persist for 
such a long time in spite of the fact that Grote and Gomperz 
had pointed out the reactionary character of some doctrines 
of the Republic and the Laws, But even they did not see all 
the implications of these doctrines ; they never doubted that 
Plato was, fundamentally, a humanitarian. And their adverse 
criticism was ignored, or interpreted as a failure to understand 
and to appreciate Plato who was by Christians considered a 
‘ Christian before Christ and by revolutionaries a revolution- 
ary. This kind of complete faith in Plato is undoubtedly still 
dominant, and Field, for instance, finds it necessary to warn 
his readers that ‘ we shall misunderstand Plato entirely if we 
think of him as a revolutionary thinker \ This is, of course, 
very true ; and it would clearly be pointless if the tendency to 
make of Plato a revolutionary thinker, or at least a progressivist, 
were not fairly widespread. But Field himself has the same 
kind of faith in Plato ; for when he goes on to say that Plato 
was ‘ in strong opposition to the new and subversive tendencies ’ 
of his time, then surely he accepts too readily Plato's testimony 
for the subversiveness of these new tendencies. The enemies of 
freedom have always charged its defenders ‘ with subversion. 
And nearly always they have succeeded in persuading the 
guileless and well-meaning. 

The idealization of the great idealist permeates not only the 
interpretations of Plato's writings, but also the translations. 
Drastic remarks of Plato's which do not fit the translator’s views 
of what a humanitarian should say arc frequently either toned 
down or misunderstood. This tendency begins with the transla- 
tion of the very title of Plato's so-called ‘ Republic What 
comes first to our mind when hearing this title is that the author 
must be a liberal, if not a revolutionary. But the title ‘ Republic ’ 
is, quite simply, the English form of the Latin rendering of a 
Greek word that had no associations of this kind, and whose 
proper English translation would be ‘ The Constitution ’ or 
‘ The City State ' or ‘ The State The traditional translation 
* The Republic ' has undoubtedly contributed to the general con- 
viction that Plato could not have been a reactionary. 

In view of all that Plato says about Goodness and Justice and 
the other Ideas mentioned, my thesis that his political demands 
are purely totalitarian and anti-humanitarian needs to be 
defended. In order to undertake this defence, I shall, for the 


next four chapters, break off the analysis of historicism, and 
concentrate upon a critical examination of the ethical Ideas 
mentioned, and of their part in Plato’s political demands. In 
the present chapter, I shall examine the Idea of Justice ; in 
the three following chapters, the doctrine that the wisest and best 
should rule, and the Ideas of Truth, "^Visdom, ^'Goodness, and 


What do we really mean when we speak of ‘Justice ’ ? I do 
not think that verbal questions of this kind are particularly im- 
portant, or that it is possible to make a definite answer to them, 
since such terms are always used in various senses. However, 
I think that most of us, especially those whose general outlook is 
humanitarian, mean something like this : {a) an equal distribu- 
tion of the burden of citizenship, i.e. of those limitations of freedom 
which are necessary in social life ^ ; [b) equal treatment of the 
citizens before the law, provided, of course, that {c) the laws 
show neither favour nor disfavour towards individual citizens 
or groups or classes ; {d) impartiality of the courts of justice ; and 
{e) an equal share in the advantages (and not only in the burden) 
which membership of the state may offer to its citizens. If Plato 
had meant by ‘justice’ anything of this kind, then my claim 
that his programme is purely totalitarian would certainly be 
wrong and all those would be right who believe that Plato’s 
politics rested upon an acceptable humanitarian basis. But the 
fact is that he meant by ‘justice’ something entirely different. 

What did Plato mean by ‘justice’? I assert that in the 
Republic he used the term ‘just ’ as a synonym for ‘ that which 
is in. the interest of the best state And what is'in the interest of 
this best state ? To arrest all change, by the maintenance of a 
rigid class division and class rule. If I am right in this interpreta- 
tion, then we should have to say that Plato’s demand for justice 
leaves his political programme at the level of totalitarianism ; 
and we should have to conclude that we must guard against the 
danger of being impressed by mere words. 

Justice is the central topic of the Republic ; in fact, ‘ On 
Justice ’ is its traditional sub-title. In his enquiry into the nature 
of justice, Plato makes use of the method mentioned ® in the last 
chapter ; he first tries to search for this Idea in the state, and 
then attempts to apply the result to the individual. One cannot 
say that Plato’s question ‘ What is justice ? ’ quickly finds an 

Plato's politics 


answer, for it is only given in the Fourth Book. The considera- 
tions which lead up to it will be analysed more fully later in this 
chapter. Briefly, they are these. 

The city is founded upon human nature, its needs, and its 
limitations ‘ We have stated, and, you will remember, 
repeated over and over again that each man in our city should 
do one work only ; namely, that work for which his nature is 
naturally best fitted.' From this Plato concludes that everyone 
should mind his own business ; that the carpenter should confine 
himself to carpentering, the shoemaker to making shoes. Not 
much harm is done, however, if two workers change their natural 
places. ‘ But should anyone who is by nature a worker (or else 
a member of the money-earning class) . . manage to get into 
the warrior class ; or should a warrior get into the class of the 
guardians, without being worthy of it ; • . then this kind of 
change and of underhand plotting would mean the downfall of 
the city.' From this argument which is closely related to the 
principle that the carrying of arms should be a class prerogative, 
Plato draws his final conclusion that any changing or inter- 
mingling within the three classes must be injustice, and that the 
opposite, therefore, is justice : ‘ When each class in the city minds 
its own business, the money-earning class as well as the auxiliaries 
and the guardians, then this will be justice.' This conclusion is 
reaffirmed and summed up a little later : ‘ The city is just . . if 
each of its three classes attends to its own work.' But this state- 
ment means that Plato identifies justice with the principle of class 
rule and of class privilege. For the principle that every class 
should attend to its own business means, briefly and bluntly, that 
the state is just if the ruler rules^ if the worker works y and ’ if the slave slaves. 

It will be seen that Plato’s concept of justice is fundamentally 
different from our ordinary view as analysed above. Plato calls 
class privilege ‘just while we usually mean by justice rather the 
absence of such privilege. But the difference goes further than 
that. We mean by justice some kind of equality in the treatment 
of individualsy while Plato considers justice not as a relationship 
between individuals, but as a property of the whole state, based 
upon a relationship between its classes. The state is just if it is 
healthy, strong, united — stable. 


But was Plato perhaps right ? Does ‘justice ' perhaps mean 
what he says ? I do not intend to discuss such a question. If 

CHAPTER 6 : totalitarian justice 91 

anyone should hold that ‘justice ’ means the unchallenged rule 
of one class, then I should simply reply that I am all for 
injustice. In other words, I believe that nothing depends upon 
words, and everything upon our practical demands or upon the 
proposals for framing our policy which we decide to adopt. 
Behind Plato’s definition of justice stands, fundamentally, his 
demand for a totalitarian class rule, and his decision to bring it 

But was he not right in a different sense? Did his idea of 
justice perhaps correspond to the Greek way of using this word ? 
Did the Greeks perhaps mean by ‘justice’, something holistic, 
like the ‘ health of the state ’, and is it not utterly unfair and 
unhistorical to expect from Plato an anticipation of our modern 
idea of justice, as equality of the citizens before the law? This 
question, indeed, has been answered in the affirmative, and the 
claim has been made that Plato’s holistic idea of ‘ social justice ’ 
is characteristic of the traditional Greek outlook, of the ‘ Greek 
genius ’ which ‘ was not, like the Roman, specifically legal ’, but 
rather ‘ specifically metaphysical ’ ®. But this claim is untenable. 
As a matter of fact, the Greek way of using the word ‘justice ’ 
was indeed surprisingly Similar to our own individualistic and 
equalitarian usage. 

In order to show this, I may first refer to Plato himself who, in 
the dialogue Gorgias (which is earlier than the Republic), speaks of 
the view that ‘justice is equality ’ as one held by the great mass 
of the people, and as one which agrees not only with ‘ convention’ , 
but with ‘ nature itself’. I may further quote Aristotle, another 
opponent of equalitarianism, who, under the influence of Plato’s 
naturalism, elaborated among other things the theory that some 
men are by nature born to slave®. Nobody could be less 
interested in spreading an equalitarian and individualistic 
interpretation of the term ‘justice’. But when speaking of the 
judge, whom he describes as ‘ a personification of that which is 
just ’, Aristotle says that it is the task of the judge to ‘ restore 
equality He tells us that ‘ all men think justice to be a kind 
of equality an equality, namely, which ‘ pertains to persons 
He even thinks (but here he is wrong) that the Greek word for 
‘justice ’ is to be derived from a root that means ‘ equal division 
(The view that ‘justice ’ means a kind of ‘ equality in the division 
of spoils and honours to the citizens ’ agrees with Plato’s views in 
the Laws, where two kinds of equality in the distribution of spoils 
and honours are distinguished — ‘numerical’ or ‘arithmetical’ 

Plato’s politics 


equality and ^ proportionate ’ equality ; the second of which takes 
account of the degree in which the persons in question possess 
virtue, breeding, and wealth — and where this proportionate 
equality is said to constitute ' political justice \) And when 
Aristotle discusses the principles of democracy, he says that 
® democratic justice is the application of the principle of arith- 
metical equality (as distinct from proportionate equality) All 
this is certainly not merely his personal impression of the meaning 
of justice, nor is it perhaps only a description of the way in which 
the word was used, after Plato, under the influence of the Gorgias 
and the Laws ; it is, rather, the expression of a universal and 
ancient as well as popular use of the word ‘justice ’A® 

In view of this evidence, we must say, I think, that the holistic 
and anti-equalitarian interpretation of justice in the Republic was 
an innovation, and that Plato attempted to present his totalitarian 
class rule as ‘just ’ while people generally meant by ‘justice ’ the 
exact opposite. 

This result is startling, and opens up a number of questions. 
Why did Plato claim, in the Republic, that justice meant inequality 
if in general usage, it meant equality ? To me the only likely 
reply seems to be that he wanted to make propaganda for his 
totalitarian state by persuading the people that it was the ‘just ’ 
state. 'But was such an attempt worth his while, considering that 
,it is not words but what we mean by them that matters ? Of 
course it was worth while ; this can be seen from the fact that he 
fully succeeded in persuading his readers, down to our own day, 
that he was candidly advocating justice, i.e. that justice they were 
striving for. And it is a fact that he thereby spread doubt and 
confusion among equalitarians and individualists who, under the 
influence of his authority, began to ask themselves whether his 
idea of justice was not truer and better than theirs. Since the 
word ‘ justice ’ symbolizes to us an aim of such importance, and 
since so many are prepared to endure anything for it, and to do 
all in their power for its realization, the enlistment of these 
humanitarian forces, or at least, the paralysing of equalitarianism, 
was certainly an aim worthy of being pursued by a believer in 
totalitarianism. But was Plato aware that justice meant so much 
to men ? He was ; for he writes in the Republic : ‘ When a man 
has committed an injustice, . . is it not true that his courage 
refuses to be stirred? . . But when he believes that he has 
suffered injustice, does not his vigour and his wrath flare up at 
once ? And is it not equally true that when fighting on the side 


of what he believes to be just, he can endure hunger and cold, 
and any kind of hardship ? And does he not hold on until he 
conquers, persisting in his exalted state until he has either achieved 
his aim, or perished ? ' 

Reading this, we cannot doubt that Plato knew the power of 
faith, and, above all, of a faith in justice. Nor can we doubt 
that the Republic must tend to pervert this faith, and to replace 
it by a directly opposite faith. And in the light of the available 
evidence, it seems to me most probable that Plato knew very 
well what he was doing. Equalitarianism was his arch-enemy, 
and he was out to destroy it ; no doubt in the sincere belief that 
it was a great evil and a great danger. But his attack upon 
equalitarianism was not an honest attack. Plato did not dare to 
face the enemy openly. 

I proceed to present the evidence in support of this contention. 


The Republic is probably the most elaborate monograph on 
justice ever written. It examines a variety of views about justice, 
and it does this in a way which leads us to believe that Plato 
omitted none of the more important theories known to him. In 
fact, Plato clearly implies that because of his vain attempts to 
track it down among the current views, a new search for justice 
is necessary. Yet in his survey and discussion of the current 
theories, the view that justice is equality before the law (‘ isonomy ’) 
is never mentioned. This omission can be explained only in two 
ways. Either he overlooked the equalitarian theory or he 
purposely avoided it. The first possibility seems very unlikely 
if we consider the care with which the Republic is composed, and 
the necessity for Plato to analyse the theories of his opponents 
if he was to make a forceful presentation of his own. But this 
possibility appears even more improbable if we consider the wide 
popularity of the equalitarian theory. We need not, however, 
rely upon merely probable arguments since it can be easily shown 
that Plato was not only acquainted with the equalitarian theory 
but well aware of its importance when he wrote the Republic. As 
already mentioned in this chapter (in section ii), and as will be 
shown in detail later (in section vni), equalitarianism played a 
considerable role in the earlier Gorgias where it is even defended ; 
and in spite of the fact that the merits or demerits of equali- 
tarianism are nowhere seriously discussed in the Republic^ Plato 
did not change his mind regarding its influence, for the Republic 

Plato’s politics 


itself testifies to its popularity. It is there alluded to as a very 
popular democratic belief ; but it is treated only with scorn, and 
all we hear about it consists of a few sneers and pin-pricks well 
matched with the abusive attack upon Athenian democracy, and 
made at a place where justice is not the topic of the discussion. 
The possibility that the equalitarian theory of justice was over- 
looked by Plato is therefore ruled out, and so is the possibility 
that he did not see that a discussion of an influential theory 
diametrically opposed to his own was requisite. The fact that 
his silence in the Republic is broken only by a few jocular remarks 
(apparently he thought them too good to be suppressed can 
be explained only as a conscious refusal to discuss it. In view of 
all that, I do not see how Plato’s method of impressing upon his 
readers the belief that all important theories have been examined 
can be reconciled with the standards of intellectual honesty ; 
though we must add that his failure is undoubtedly due to his 
complete devotion to a cause in whose goodness he firmly believed. 

In order to appreciate fully the implications of Plato’s practi- 
cally unbroken silence on this issue, we must first see clearly that 
the equalitarian movement as Plato knew it represented all he 
hated, and that his own theory, in the Republic and in all later 
works, was largely a reply to the powerful challenge of the new 
equalitarianism and humanitarianism. To show this, I shall 
discuss the main principles of the humanitarian movement, and 
contrast them with the corresponding principles of Platonic 

The humanitarian theory of justice makes three main demands 
or proposals, namely (a) the equalitarian principle proper, i.e. the 
proposal to eliminate ' natural ’ privileges, {b) the general prin- 
ciple of individualism, and {c) the principle that it should be the 
task and the purpose of the state to protect the freedom of its 
citizens. To each of these political demands or proposals there 
corresponds a directly opposite principle of Platonism, namely 
the principle of natural privilege, the general principle 
of holism or collegtivism, and {c^) the principle that it should be 
the task and the purpose of the individual to maintain, and to 
strengthen, the stability of the state. — I shall discuss these three 
points in order, devoting to each of them one of the sections iv, 
V, and VI of this chapter. 




Equalitarianism proper is the demand that the citizens of the 
state should be treated impartially. It is the demand that birth, 
family connection, or wealth must not influence those who 
administer the law to the citizens. In other words, it does not 
recognize any ‘ natural ’ privileges, although certain privileges 
may be conferred by the citizens upon those they trust. 

This equalitarian principle had been admirably formulated by 
Pericles a few years before Plato’s birth, in an oration which has 
been preserved by Thucydides It will be quoted more fully 
in chapter lo, but two of its sentences may be given here : ‘ Our 
laws ’, said Pericles, ‘ afford equal justice to all alike in their 
private disputes, but we do not ignore the claims of excellence. 
When a citizen distinguishes himself, then he is preferred to the 
public service, not as a matter of privilege, but as a reward for 
merit ; and poverty is not a bar. . .’ These sentences express 
some of the fundamental aims of the great equalitarian move- 
ment which, as we have seen, did not even shrink from attack- 
ing slavery. In Pericles’ own generation, this movement was 
represented by Euripides, Antiphon, and Hippias, who* have all 
been quoted in the last chapter, and also by Herodotus 
In Plato’s generation, it was represented by Alcidamas and 
Lycophron, both quoted above ; another supporter was 
Antisthenes, who had been one of Socrates’ closest friends. 

Plato’s principle of justice was, of course, diametrically 
opposed to all this. He demanded natural privileges for the 
natural leaders. But how did he contest the equalitarian 
principle? And how did he, establish his own demands? 

It will be remembered from the last chapter that some of 
the best-known formulations of the equalitarian demands were 
couched in the impressive but questionable language of ‘ natural 
rights ’, and that some of their representatives argued in favour 
of these demands by pointing out the ‘ natural ’, i.e. biologicail, 
equality of men. We have seen that the argument is irrelevant ; 
that men are equal in some important respects, and unequal in 
others ; and that normative demands cannot be derived from 
this fact, or from any other fact. It is therefore interesting to 
note that the naturalist argument was not used by all equali- 
tarians, and that Pericles, for one, did not even allude to it 

Plato quickly found that naturalism was a weak spot within 
the equalitarian doctrine, and he took the fullest advantage of 

Plato’s politics 


this weakness. To tell men that they are equal has a certain 
sentimental appeal. But this appeal is small* compared with 
that made by a propaganda that tells them that they are superior 
to others, and that others are inferior to them. Are you naturally 
equal to your servants, to your slaves, to the manual worker who 
is no better than an animal ? The very question is ridiculous ! 
Plato seems to have been the first to appreciate the possibilities 
of this reaction, and to oppose contempt, scorn, and ridicule to 
the claim to natural equality. This explains why he was anxious 
to impute the naturalistic argument even to those of his opponents 
who did not use it ; in the Menexenus^ a parody of Pericles’ 
oration, he therefore insists on linking together the claims to 
equal laws and to natural equality : * The basis of our con- 
stitution is equality of birth ’, he says ironically. ‘ We are all 
brethren, and are all children of one mother ; . . and the natural 
equality of birth induces us to strive for equality before the 

Later, in the Laws^ Plato summarizes his reply to equali- 
tarianism in the formula : ‘ Equal treatment of unequals must 
beget inequity ’ ; and this was developed by Aristotle into 

the formula ‘ Equality for equals, inequality for unequals ’. 
This formula indicates what may be termed the standard objection 
to equalitarianism ; the objection that equality would be excellent 
if only men were equal, but that it is manifestly impossible since 
they are not equal, and since they cannot be made equal. This 
apparently very realistic objection is, in fact, most unrealistic, 
for political privileges have never been founded upon natural 
differences of character. And, indeed, Plato does not seem to 
have had much confidence in this objection when writing the 
Republic y for it is used there only in one of his sneers at democracy 
when he says that it ‘ distributes equality to equals and unequals 
alike.’ Apart from this remark, he 'prefers not to argue 
against equalitarianism, but to forget it. 

Summing up, it can be said that Plato never underrated the 
significance of the equalitarian theory, supported as it was by a 
man like Pericles, but that, in the Republicy he did not treat it 
at all ; he attacked it, but not squarely and openly. 

But how did he try to establish his own anti-equalitarianism, 
his principle of natural privilege ? In the Republic^ he proffered 
three different arguments, though two of them hardly deserve the 
name. The first is the surprising remark that, since all the 
other three virtues of the state have been examined, the remaining 


fourth, that of ^ minding one’s own business must be 'justice 
I am reluctant to believe that this was meant as an argument ; 
but it must be, for Plato’s leading speaker, ' Socrates introduces 
it by asking : ' Do you know how I arrive at this conclusion ? ’ 
The second argument is more interesting, for it is an attempt to 
show that his anti-equalitarianism can be derived from the ordi- 
nary (i.e. equalitarian) view that justice is impartiality, I quote 
the passage in full. Remarking that the rulers of the city will also 
be its judges, ' Socrates ’ says ' And will it not be the aim of 
their jurisdiction that no man shall take what belongs to another, 
and shall be deprived of what is his own ? ’ — ' Yes ’, is the reply 
of ' Glaucon the interlocutor, ' that will be their intention.’ — 

' Because that would be just ? ’ — ' Yes,’ — ' Accordingly, to keep 
and to practise what belongs to us and is our own will be generally 
agreed upon to be justice,’ Thus it is established that ' to keep 
and to practise what is one’s own ’ is the principle of just jurisdic- 
tion, according to our ordinary ideas of justice. Here the second 
argument ends, giving way to the third (to be analysed below) 
which leads to the conclusion that it is justice to keep one’s 
own station (or to do one’s own business), which is the station (or 
the business) of one^s own class or caste. 

The sole purpose of this second argument is to impress upon 
the reader that 'justice’, in the ordinary sense of the word, 
requires us to keep our own station, since we should always.^ keep 
what belongs to us. That is to say, Plato his readers to 
draw the inference : ' It is just to keep and to practise what is 
one’s own. My place (or my business) is my own. Thus it is 
just for me to keep to my place (or to practise my business).’ 
This is about as sound as the argument : ‘ ' It is just to keep and 
to practise what is one’s own. This plan of stealing your money 
is ray own. Thus it is just for me to keep to my plan, and to 
put it into practice, i.e. to steal your money.’ It is clear that the 
inference which Plato wishes us to draw is nothing but a crude 
juggle with the meaning of the term ‘ one’s own ’. (For the 
problem is whether justice demands 'that everything which is in 
some sense ' our own ’, e.g. ' our own ’ class, should therefore be 
treated, not only as our possession, but as our inalienable posses- 
sion. But in such a principle Plato himself does not believe ; for 
it would clearly make a transition to communism impossible. 
And what about keeping our own children ?) This crude juggle 
is Plato’s way of establishing what Adam calls ' a point of contact 
between his own view of Justice and the popular . . meaning of 

Plato’s politics 


the word This is how the greatest philosopher of all time tries 
to convince us that he has discovered the true nature of justice. 

The third and last argument which Plato offers is much more 
serious. It is an appeal to the principle of holism or collectivism, 
and is connected with the principle that it is the purpose of the 
individual to maintain the stability of the state. It will therefore 
be discussed, in this analysis, below, in sections v and vi. 

But before proceeding to these points, I wish to draw attention 
to the ‘ preface ’ which Plato places before his description of the 
* discovery ’ which we are here examining. It must be con^ 
sidered in the light of the observations we have made so far. 
Viewed in .this light, the ‘ lengthy preface ^ — this is how Plato 
himself describes it — appears as an ingenious attempt to prepare 
the reader for the ‘ discovery of justice ’ by making him believe 
that there is an argument going on when in reality he is only 
faced with a display of dramatic devices, designed to soothe his 
critical faculties. 

Having discovered wisdom as the virtue proper to the 
guardians and courage as that proper to the auxiliaries, ‘ Socrates ’ 
announces his intention of making a final effort to discover 
justice. ‘ Two things are left ’ he says, ‘ which we shall have 
to discover in the city : temperance, and finally that other thing 
which is the main object of all our investigations, namely justice.’ 
— * Exactly ’, says Glaucon. Socrates now suggests that tem- 
perance shall be dropped. But Glaucon protests and Socrates 
gives in, saying that ‘ it would be wrong ’ (or ^ crooked ’) to refuse. 
This little dispute prepares the reader for the re-introduction of 
justice, suggests to him that Socrates possesses the means for its 
‘ discovery ’, and reassures him that Glaucon is carefully watching 
Plato’s intellectual honesty in conducting the argument which 
he, the reader himself, need not therefore watch at all 

Socrates next proceeds to discuss temperance, which he 
discovers to be the only virtue proper to the workers. (By 
the way, the much debated question whether Plato’s ^ justice ’ 
is distinguishable from his ‘ temperance ’ can be easily answered. 
Justice means to keep one^s place ; temperance means to know 
one^s place — that is to say, more precisely, to be satisfied with 
it. What other virtue could be proper to the workers who fill 
their bpllies like the beasts ?) When temperance has been dis- 
covered, Socrates asks : ‘ And what about the last principle ? 
Obviously it will be justice.’ — ‘ Obviously ’, replies Glaucon. 

‘ Now, my dear Glaucon says Socrates, ' we must, like 


hunters, surround her cover and keep a close watch, and we 
must not allow her to escape, and to get away ; for surely, justice 
must be somewhere near this spot. You had better look out and 
search the place. And if you are the first to see her, then give 
me a shout ! ’ Glaucon, like the reader, is of course unable to 
do anything of the sort, and implores Socrates to take the lead. 

‘ Then offer your prayers with me ’, says Socrates, ‘ and follow 
me.’ But even Socrates finds the ground ‘ hard to traverse, 
since it is covered with underwood ; it is dark, and difficult to 
explore . . But ’ , he says, ‘ we must go on with it ’. And 
instead of protesting ‘ Go on with what ? With our exploration, 
i.e. with our argument ? But we have not even started. There 
has not been a glimmer of sense in what you have said so far ’, 
Glaucon, and the naive reader with him replies meekly ; ‘ Yes, 
we must go on.’ Now Socrates reports that he has ‘ got a 
glimpse ’ (we have not), and gets excited. ‘ Hurray ! Hurray ! ’ 
he cries, ‘ Glaucon ! There seems to be a track ! I think now 
that the quarry will not escape us ! ’ — ‘ That is good news ’, 
replies Glaucon. ‘ Upon my word ’, says Socrates, ‘ we have 
made utter fools of ourselves. What we were looking for at a 
distance, has been lying at our very feet all the time ! . And we 
never saw it ! ’ With exclamations and repeated assertions of 
this kind, Socrates continues for a good while, interrupted by 
Glaucon, who gives expression to the reader’s feelings and asks 
Socrates what he has found. But when Socrates says only * We 
have been talking of it all the time, without realizing that we 
were actually describing it ’,' Glaucon expresses the reader’s 
impatience and says : ‘ This preface gets a bit lengthy ; remember 
that I want to hear what it is all about.’ And only then does Plato 
proceed to proffer the two ‘ arguments ’ which I have outlined. 

Glaucon’s last remark may be taken as an indication that 
Plato was conscious of what he was doing in this ‘ lengthy preface ’. 
I cannot interpret it as anything but an attempt — ^it proved to be 
highly successful — to lull the reader’s critical faculties, and, by 
means of a dramatic display of verbal fireworks, to divert his 
attention from the intellectual poverty of this masterly piece of 
dialogue. One is teiftpted to think that Plato knew its weakness, 
and how to hide it. 


The problem of individualism and collectivism is closely 
related to that of equality and inequality. Before going 

100 Plato’s politics 

on to discuss it, a few terminological remarks seem to be 

The term ^ individualism ’ can be used (according to the 
Oxford Dictionary) in two different ways : {a) in opposition to 
collectivism, and {b) in opposition to altruism. There is no 
other word to express the former meaning, but several synonyms 
for the latter, for example ‘ egoism ’ or ® selfishness This is 
why in what follows I shall use the term ‘ individualism ’ exclusively 
in sense (a), using terms like ‘ egoism ’ or ‘ selfishness ’ if sense 
[b) is intended. A little table may be useful : 

{a) Individualism is opposed to {a') Collectivism. 

[b) Egoism is opposed to {b') Altruism 

Now these four terms describe certain attitudes, or demands, 
or decisions, or proposals, for codes of normative laws. Though 
necessarily vague, they can, I believe, be easily illustrated by 
examples and so be used with a precision sufficient for our present 
purpose. Let us begin with collectivism since this attitude is 
already familiar to us from our discussion of Plato’s holism. His 
demand that the individual should subserve the interests of the 
whole, whether this be the universe, the city, the tribe, the race, 
or any other collective body, was illustrated in the last chapter by 
a few passages. To quote one of these again, but more fully : 

‘ The part exists for the sake of the whole, but the whole does not 
exist for the sake of the part. . . You are created for the sake of 
the whole and not the whole for the sake of you.’ This quotation 
not only illustrates holism and collectivism, but also conveys its 
strong emotional appeal of which Plato was conscious (as can be 
seen from the preamble to the passage.) The appeal is to various 
feelings, e.g. the longing to belong to a group or a tribe ; and one 
factor in it is the moral appeal for altruism and against selfishness, 
or egoism. Plato suggests that if you cannot sacrifice your 
interests for the sake of the whole, then you are selfish. 

Now a glance at our little table will show that this is not so. 
Collectivism is not opposed to egoism, nor is it identical with 
altruism or unselfishness. Collective or group egoism, for instance 
class egoism, is a very common thing (Plato knew this very 
well), and this shows clearly enough that collectivism as such is 
not opposed to selfishness. On the other hand, an anti-collectivist, 
i.e. an individualist, can, at the same time, be an altruist ; he 
can be ready to make sacrifices in order to help other individuals. 
One of the best examples of this attitude is perhaps Dickens. It, 
would be difficult to say which is the stronger, his passionate 


hatred of selfishness or his passionate interest in individuals with 
all their human weaknesses ; and this attitude is combined with 
a dislike, not only of what we now call collective bodies or 
collectives but even of a genuinely devoted altruism, if directed 
towards anonymous groups rather than concrete individuals. (I 
remind the reader of Mrs. Jellyby in Bleak House, ‘ a lady devoted 
to public duties ’.) These illustrations, I think, explain suffi- 
ciently clearly the meaning of our four terms ; and they show 
that any of the terms in our table can be combined with either 
of the two terms that stand in the other line (which gives four 
possible combinations). 

Now it is nteresting that for Plato, and for most Platonists, 
an altruistic individualism (as for instance that of Dickens) cannot 
exist. According to Plato, the only alternative to collectivism 
is egoism ; he simply identifies all altruism with collectivism, 
and all individualism with egoism- This is not a mattef of 
terminology, of mere words, for instead of four possibilities, 
Plato recognized only two. This has created considerable 
confusion in speculation on ethical matters, even down to our 
own day. 

Plato’s identification of individualism with egoism furnishes 
him with a powerful weapon for his defence of collectivism as 
well as for his attack upon individualism. In defending 
collectivism, he can appeal to our humanitarian feeling of 
unselfishness ; in his attack, he can brand aU individualists as 
selfish, as incapable of devotion to anything but themselves. 
This attack, although aimed by Plato against individualism in 
our sense, i.e, against the rights of human individuals, reaches of 
coiurse only a very different target, egoism. But this difference 
is constantly ignored by Plato and by most Platonists. 

Why did Plato try to attack individualism ? I think he knew 
very weU what he was doing when he trained his guns upon this 
position, for individualism, perhaps even more than equafi- 
tarianism, was a stronghold in the defences of the new humani- 
tarian creed. The emancipation of the individual was indeed 
the great spiritual revolution which had led to the breakdown 
of tribalism and -to the rise of democracy. Plato’s uncanny 
sociological intuition shows itself in the way in which he invariably 
discerned the enemy wherever he met him. 

Individualism was part of the old intuitive idea of justice. 
That justice is not, as Plato would have it, the health and harmony 
of the state, but rather a certain way of treating individuals, is 


Plato’s politics 

emphasized by Aristotle, it will be remembered, when he says 
‘justice is something that pertains to persons ’ This indivi- 
dualistic element had been emphasized by the generation of 
Pericles. Pericles himself made it clear that the laws must 
guarantee equal justice ‘ to all alike in their private disputes ’ ; 
but he went further. ‘ We do not feel called upon ’, he said, 
‘ to nag at our neighbour if he chooses to go his own way.’ (Com- 
pare this with Plato’s remark that the state does not produce 
men ‘ for the purpose of letting them loose, each to go his own 
way . .’.) Pericles insists that this individualism must be linked 
with altruism ; ‘ We are taught . . never to forget that we must 
protect the injured ’ ; and his speech culminates in a description 
of the young Athenian who grows up ‘ to a happy versatility, and 
to selfrreliance.’ 

This individualism, united with altruism, has become the 
basis of our western civilization. It is the central doctrine of 
Christianity (‘ love your neighbour ’, say the Scriptures, not ‘ love 
your tribe ’) ; and it is the core of all ethical doctrines which 
have grown from our civilization and stimulated it. It is also, 
for instance, Kant’s central practical doctrine (‘ always recognize 
that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as mere 
means to your ends ’). There is no other thought which has 
been so powerful in the moral development of man. 

Plato was right when he saw in this doctrine the enemy of 
his caste state ; and he hated it more than any other of the 
‘ subversive ’ doctrines of his time. In order to show this even 
more clearly, I shall quote two passages from the Laws whose 
truly astonishing hostility towards the individual is, I think, too 
little appreciated. The first of them is famous as a reference to 
the Republic, whose ‘ community of women and children and 
property ’ it discusses. Plato describes here the constitution of 
the Republic as ‘ the highest form of the state ’. In this highest 
state, lie tells us, ‘ there is common property of wives, of children, 
and of all chattels. And everything possible has been done to 
eradicate from our life everywhere and in every way all that is 
private and individual. So far as it can be done, even those 
things which nature herself has made private and individual have 
somehow become the common property of all. Our very eyes 
and ears and hands seem to see, to hear, and to act, as if they 
belonged not to individuals but to the community. All men are 
moulded to be unanimous in the utmost degree in bestowing 
praise and blame, and they even rejoice and grieve about the 


same things, and at the same time. And all the laws are per- 
fected for unifying the city to the utmost.’ Plato goes on to 
say that ‘ no man can find a better criterion of the highest 
excellence of a state than the principles just expounded ’ ; and he 
describes such a state as ‘ divine and as the ‘ model ’ or ‘ pattern ’ 
or ‘ original ’ of the state, i.e. as its Form or Idea. This is Plato’s 
own view of the Republis, expressed at a time when he had given 
up hope of realizing his political ideal in all its glory. 

The second passage, also from the Laws, is, if possible, even 
more outspoken. It should be emphasized that the passage deals 
primarily with military expeditions and with military discipline, 
but Plato leaves no doubt that these same militarist principles 
should be adhered to not only in war, but also ‘ in peace, and from 
the earliest childhood on ’. Like other totalitarian militarists and 
admirers of Sparta, Plato urges that the all-important require- 
ments of military discipline must be paramount, even in peace, 
and that they must determine the whole life of all citizens ; for 
not only the full citizens (who are all soldiers) and the children, 
but also the very beasts must spend their whole life in a state of 
permanent and total mobilization®*. ‘ The greatest principle of 
all he writes, ‘ is that nobody, whether male or female, should 
ever be without a leader. Nor should the mind of anybody be 
habituated to letting him do anything at all on his own initiative, 
neither out of zeal, nor even playfully. But in war and in the 
midst of peace — to his leader he shall direct his eye, and follow 
him faithfully. And even in the smallest matters he should stand 
under leadership. For example, he should get up, or move, or 
wash, or take his meals . . only if he has been told to do so. . . 
In a word, he should teach his soul, by long habit, never to dream 
of acting independently, and to become utterly incapable of it. 
In this way the life of aU will be spent in total community. There 
is no law, nor will there ever be one, which is superior to this, or 
better and more effective in ensuring salvation and victory in war. 
And in times of peace, and from the earliest childhood on should it be 
fostered— this habit of ruling others, and of being ruled by others. 
And every trace of anarchy should be utterly eradicated from all 
the life of all the men, and even of the wild beasts which are subject 
to men.’ 

' These are strong words. Never was a man more in earnest 
in his hostility towards the individual. And this hatred is deeply 
rooted in the fundamental dualism of Plato’s philosophy j he 
hated the individual and his freedom just as he hated the varying 

Plato’s politics 


particular experiences, the variety of the changing world of 
sensible things. In the field of politics, the individual is to 
Plato the Evil One himself. 

This attitude, anti-humanitarian and anti-Christian as it is, has 
been consistently idealized. It has been interpreted as humane, 
as unselfish, as altruistic, and as Christian. E. B. England, for 
instance, calls the first of these two passages from the Laws ‘ a 
vigorous denunciation of selfishness Similar words are used by 
Barker, when discussing Plato’s theory of justice. He says that 
Plato’s aim was ‘ to replace selfishness and civil discord by har- 
mony ’, and that ‘ the old harmony of the interests of the State 
and the individual . . is thus restored in the teachings of Plato ; 
but restored on a new and higher level, because it has been 
elevated into a conscious sense of harmony Such statements 
and countless similar ones can be easily explained if we remember 
Plato’s identification of individualism with egoism ; for all these 
Platonists believe that anti-individualism is the same as selfless- 
ness. This illustrates my contention that this identification had 
the effect of a successful piece of anti-humanitarian propaganda, 
and that it has confused speculation on ethical matters down to 
our own time. But we must also realize that those who, deceived 
by this identification and by high-sounding words, exalt Plato’s 
reputation as a teacher of morals and announce to the world that 
his ethics is the nearest approach to Christianity before Christ, are 
preparing the way for totalitarianism and especially for a totali- 
tarian, anti-Christian interpretation of Christianity. And this is 
a dangerous thing, for there have been times when Christianity 
was dominated by totalitarian ideas. There was an Inquisition ; 
and, in another form, it may come again. 

It may therefore be worth while to mention some further 
reasons why guileless people have persuaded themselves of the 
humaneness of Plato’s intentions. One is that when preparing 
the ground for his collectivist doctrines, Plato usually begins by 
quoting a maxim or proverb (which seems to be of Pythagorean 
origin) : ‘ Friends have in common all things they possess.’ 
This is, undoubtedly, an unselfish, high-minded and excellent 
sentiment. Who could suspect that an argument starting from 
such a commendable assumption would arrive at a wholly anti- 
humanitarian conclusion ? Another and important point is that 
there are many genuinely humanitarian sentiments expressed 
in Plato’s dialogues, particularly in those written before the 
Republic when he was still under the influence of Socrates. I 


mention especially Socrates’ doctrine, in the Gorgias, that it is 
worse to do injustice than to .suffer it. Clearly, this doctrine is 
not only altruistic, but also individualistic ; for in a collectivist 
theory of justice like that of the Republic, injustice is an act against 
the state, not against a particular man, and though a man may 
commit an act of injustice, only the collective can suffer from it. 
But in the Gorgias we find nothing of the kind. The theory of 
justice is a perfectly normal one, and the examples of injustice 
given by ‘ Socrates ’ (who has here probably a good deal of the 
real Socrates in him) are such as boxing a man’s ears, injuring, or 
killing him. Socrates’ teaching that it is better to suffer such 
acts than to do them is indeed very similar to Christian teaching, 
and his doctrine of justice fits in excellently with the spirit of 
Pericles. (An attempt to interpret this will be made in 
chapter lo.) 

Now the Republic develops a new doctrine of justice which is 
not merely incompatible with such an individualism, but utterly 
hostile towards it. But a reader may easily believe that Plato 
is still holding fast to the doctrine of the Gorgias. For in the 
Republic, Plato frequently alludes to the doctrine that it is better 
to suffer than to commit injustice, in spite of the fact that this is 
simply nonsense from the point of view of the collectivist theory 
of justice proffered in this work. Furthermore, we hear in the 
Republic the opponents of ‘ Socrates ’ giving voice to the opposite 
theory, that it is good and pleasant to inflict injustice, and bad to 
suffer it. Of course, every humanitarian is repelled by such 
cynicism, and when Plato formulates his aims through the mouth 
of Socrates : i I fear to commit a sin if I permit such evil talk 
about Justice in my presence, without doing my utmost to defend 
her ’ then the trusting reader is convinced of Plato’s good 
intentions, and ready to follow him wherever he goes. 

The effect of this assurance of Plato’s is much enhanced by 
the fact that it follows, and is contrasted with, the cynical and 
selfish speeches of Thrasymachus, who is depicted as a political 
desperado of the worst kind. At the same time, the reader is 
led to identify individualism with the views of Thrasymachus, and 
to think that Plato, in his fight against it, is fighting against all 
the subversive and nihilistic tendencies of his time. But we 
should not allow ourselves to be frightened by an individualist 
bogy such as Thrasymachus (there is a great similarity between 
his portrait and the modem collectivist bogy of ‘ bolshevism ’) 
into accepting another more real and more dangerous because less 


Plato's politics 

obvious form of barbarism. For Plato replaces Thrasymachus' 
doctrine that the individual’s might is right by the equally bar- 
baric doctrine that right is everything that furthers the stability 
and the might of the state. 

To sum up. Because of his radical collectivism, Plato is not 
even interested in those problems which men usually call the 
problems of justice, that is to say, in the impartial weighing of the 
contesting claims of individuals. Nor is he interested in adjusting 
the individual’s claims to those of the state. For the individual 
is altogether inferior. ‘ I legislate with a view to what is best for 
the whole state says Plato, ^ . for I justly place the interests of 
the individual on an inferior level of value.’ He is concerned 
solely with the collective whole as such, and justice, to him, is 
nothing but the health, unity, and stability of the collective 


So far, we have seen that humanitarian ethics demands an 
equalitarian and individualistic interpretation of justice ; but we 
have not yet outlined the humanitarian view of the state as such. 
On the other hand, we have seen that Plato’s theory of the state 
is totalitarian ; but we have not yet explained the application 
of this theory to the ethics of the individual. Both these tasks 
will be undertaken now, the second first ; and I shall begin by 
analysing the third of Plato’s arguments in his ‘ discovery ’ of 
justice, an argument which has so far been sketched only very 
roughly. Here is Plato’s third argument : 

‘ Now see whether you agree with me ’, says Socrates. ' Do 
you think it would do much harm to the city if a carpenter 
started making shoes and a shoemaker carpentering ? ’ — ‘ Not 
very much.’ — ‘ But should one who is by nature a worker, or a 
member of the money-earning class . . manage to get into the 
warrior class ; or should a warrior get into the guardians’ class 
without being worthy of it ; then this kind of change and of 
underhand plotting would mean the downfall of the city ? ’ — 

^ Most definitely it would.’ — * We have three classes in our city, 
and I take it that any such plotting or changing from one class 
to another is a great crime against the city, and may rightly be 
denounced as the utmost wickedness^ ? ’ — ‘ Assuredly.’ — ® But you 
will certainly declare that utmost wickedness towards one’s own 
city is injustice ? ’ — ‘ Certainly.’ — ‘ Then this is injustice. And 
conversely, we shall say that when each class in the city attends to 


its own business, the money-earning class as well as the auxiliaries 
and the guardians, then this will be justice.’ 

Now if we look at this argument, we find {a) the sociological 
assumption that any relaxing of the rigid caste system must lead 
to the downfall of the city ; (b) the constant reiteration of the 
one argument that what harms the city is injustice ; and (c) the 
inference that the opposite is justice. Now we may grant here 
the sociological assumption (a) since it is Plato’s ideal to arrest 
social change, and since he means by ' harm ’ anything that may 
lead to change ; and it is probably quite true that social change 
can be arrested only by a rigid caste system. And we may 
further grant the inference (c) that the opposite of injustice is 
justice. Of greater interest, however, is {b) ; a glance at Plato’s 
argument will show that his whole trend of thought is dominated 
by the question : does this thing harm the city ? Does it do 
much harm or little harm ? He constantly reiterates that what 
threatens to harm the city is morally wicked and unjust. 

We see here that Plato recognizes only one ultimate standard, 
the interest of the state. Everything that furthers it is good and 
virtuous and just ; everything that threatens it is bad and wicked 
and unjust. Actions that serve it are moral ; actions that 
endanger it, immoral. In other words, Plato’s moral code is 
strictly utilitarian ; it is a code of collectivist or political utilitari- 
anism. The criterion of morality is the interest of the state. Morality 
is nothing but political hygiene. 

This is the collectivist, the tribal, the totalitarian theory of 
morality : ‘ Good is what is in the interest of my group ; or my 
tribe ; or my state.’ It is easy to see what this morality implied 
for international relations : that the state itself can never be 
wrong in any of its actions, as long as it is strong ; that the state 
has the right, not only to do violence to its citizens, should that 
lead to an increase of strength, but also to attack other states, 
provided it does so without weakening itself. (This inference, 
the explicit recognition of the amorality of the state, and con- 
sequently the defence of moral nihilism in international relations, 
was drawn by Hegel.) 

From the point of view of totalitarian ethics, from the point of 
view of collective utility, Plato’s theory of justice is perfectly 
correct. To keep one’s place is a virtue. It is that civil virtue 
which corresponds exactly to the military virtue of discipline. 
And this virtue plays exactly that role which ‘justice’ plays in 
Plato’s system of virtues. For the cogs in the great clockwork 

io8 Plato’s politics 

of the state can show ^ virtue ’ in two ways. First, they must be 
fit for their task, by virtue of their size, shape, strength, etc. ; and 
secondly, they must be fitted each into its right place and must 
retain that place. The first type of virtues, fitness for a specific 
task, will lead to a diflferentiation, in accordance with the specific 
task of the cog. Certain cogs will be virtuous, i.e, fit, only if they 
are (‘ by their nature ’) large ; others if they are strong ; and 
others if they are smooth. But the virtue of keeping to one’s 
place will be common to all of them ; and it will at the same 
time be a virtue of the whole : that of being properly fitted 
together — of being in harmony. To this universal virtue Plato 
gives the name ‘ justice This procedure is perfectly consistent 
and it is fully justified from the point of view of totalitarian 
morality. If the individual is nothing but a cog, then ethics is 
nothing but the study of how to fit him into the whole. 

I wish to make it clear that I believe in the sincerity of Plato’s 
totalitarianism. His demand for the unchallenged domination of 
one class over the rest was uncompromising, but his ideal was not 
the maximum exploitation of the working classes by the upper 
class ; it was the stability of the whole. The reason, however, 
which he gives for the need to keep the exploitatibn within limits, 
is again purely utilitarian. It is the interest of stabilizing the 
class rule. Should the guardians try to get too much, he argues, 
then they will in the end have nothing at all. ‘ If they are not 
satisfied with a life of stability and security, . . and are tempted, 
by their power, to appropriate for themselves all the wealth of 
the city, then surely they are bound to find out how wise Hesiod 
was when he said, the half is more than the whole But 

we must realize that even this tendency to restrict the exploita- 
tion of class privileges is a fairly common ingredient of totali- 
tarianism. Totalitarianism is not simply amoral. It is the 
morality of the closed society — of the group, or of the tribe ; it 
is not individual selfishness, but it is collective selfishness. 

Considering that Plato’s third argument is straightforward 
and. consistent, the question may be asked why he needed the 
Mengthy preface*’ as well as the two preceding arguments? 
Why all this uneasiness ? (Platonists will of course reply that this 
uneasiness exists only in my imagination. That may be so. But 
the irrational character of the passages can hardly be explained 
away.) The answer to this question is, I believe, that Plato’s 
collective clockwork would hardly have appealed to his readers 
if it had been presented to them in all its barrenness and meaning- 


lessness. Plato was uneasy because he knew and feared the 
strength and the moral appeal of the forces he tried to break. 
He did not dare to challenge them, but tried to win them over 
for his own purposes. Whether we witness in Plato’s writings 
a cynical and conscious attempt to employ the moral sentiments 
of the new humanitarianism for his own purposes, or whether we 
witness rather a tragic attempt to persuade his own better 
conscience of the evils of individualism, we shall never know. 
My personal impression is that the latter is the case, and that this 
inner conflict is the main secret of Plato’s fascination. I think 
that Plato was moved to the depths of his soul by the new ideas, 
and especially by the great individualist Socrates and his 
martyrdom. And I think that he fought against this influence 
upon himself as well as upon others with all the might of his 
unequalled intelligence, though not always openly. This explains 
also why from time to time, amid all his totalitarianism, we find 
some humanitarian ideas. And it explains why it was possible 
for philosophers to represent Plato as a humanitarian. 

A strong argument in support of this interpretation is the way 
in which Plato treated, or rather, maltreated, the humanitarian 
and rational theory of the state, a theory which had been 
developed for the first time in his generation. 

In a clear presentation of this theory, the language of political 
demands or of political proposals (cp. chapter 5, iii) should be used ; 
that is to say, we should not try to answer the essentialist ques- 
tion : What is the state, what is its true nature, its real meaning ? 
Nor should we try to answer the historicist question : How did 
the state originate, and what is the origin of political obligation ? 
We should rather put our question in this way : What do we 
demand from a state ? What do we propose to consider as the 
legitimate aim of state activity ? And in order to find out what 
our fundamental political demands are, we may ask : Why do 
we prefer living in a well-ordered state to living without a state, 
i.e. in anarchy ? This way of asking our question is a rational 
one. It is a question which a technologist must try to answer 
before he can proceed to the construction or reconstruction of 
any political institution. For only if he knows what he wants 
can he decide whether a certain institution is or is not well 
adapted to its function. 

Now if we ask our question in this way, the reply of the 
humanitarian will be^: What I demand from the state is protec- 
tion ; not only for myself, but for others too. I demand 


Plato’s politics 

protection for my own freedom and for other people’s. I do 
not wish to live at the mercy of anybody who has the larger fists 
or the bigger guns. In other words, I wish to be protected 
against aggression from other men. I want the difference 
between aggression and defence to be recognized, and defence to 
be supported by the organized power of the state. (The defence 
is one of a status quo, and the principle proposed amounts to this 
— that the status quo should not be changed by violent means, 
but only according to law, by compromise or arbitration, except 
where there is no legal procedure for its revision.) I am per- 
fectly ready to see my own freedom of action somewhat curtailed 
by the state, provided I can obtain protection of that freedom 
which remains, since I know that some limitations of my freedom 
are necessary ; for instance, I must give up my ‘ freedom ’ to 
attack, if I want the state to support defence against any attack. 
But I demand that the fundamental purpose of the state should 
not be lost sight of; I mean, the protection of that freedom 
which does not harm other citizens. Thus I demand that the 
state must limit the freedom of the citizens as equally as possible, 
and not beyond what is necessary for achieving an equal limita- 
tion of freedom. 

Something like this will be the demand of the humanitarian, 
of the equalitarian, of the individualist. It is a demand which 
permits the social technologist to approach political problems 
rationally, i.e. from the point of view of a fairly clear and definite 

Against the claim that an aim like this can be formulated 
sufficiently clearly and definitely, many objections have been 
raised. It has been said that once it is recognized that freedom 
itiust be limited, the whole principle of freedom breaks down, 
and the question what limitations are necessary and what are 
wanton cannot be decided rationally, but only by authority. 
But this objection is due to a muddle. It mixes up the funda- 
mental question of what we want from a state with certain 
important technological difficulties in the way of the realization 
of our aims. It is certainly difficult to determine exactly the 
degree of freedom that can be left to the citizens without endanger- 
ing that freedom whose protection is the task of the state. But 
that something like an approximate determination of that degree 
is possible is proved by experience, i.e. by the existence of 
democratic states. In fact, this process of approximate determina- 
tion is one of the main tasks of legislation in democracies. It 



is a difficult process, but its difficulties are certainly not such as to 
force upon us a change in our fundamental demands. These are, 
stated very briefly, that the state should be considered as a society 
for the prevention of crime, i.e. of aggression. And the whole 
objection that it is hard to know where freedom ends and crime 
begins is answered, in principle, by the famous story of the 
hooligan who protested that, being a free citizen, he could move 
his fist in any direction he liked ; whereupon the judge wisely 
replied : ‘ The freedom of the movement of your fists is limited 
by the position of your neighbour’s nose.’ 

The view of the state which I have sketched here may be 
called ‘ protectionism ’. The term ‘ protectionism ’ has often 
been used to describe tendencies which are opposed to freedom. 
Thus the economist means by protectionism the policy of protect- 
ing certain industrial interests against competition ; and the 
moralist means by it the demand that officers of the state shall 
establish a moral tutelage over the population. Although the 
political theory which I call protectionism is not connected with 
any of these tendencies, and although it is fundamentally a 
liberal theory, I think that the name may be used to indicate 
that, though liberal, it has nothing to do with the poli(^ of strict 
non-intervention (often, but not quite correctly, called ‘ laissezfaire ’). 
Liberalism and state-interference are not opposed to each other. 
On the contrary, any kind of freedom is clearly impossible unless 
it is guaranteed by the state A certain amount of state control 
in education, for instance, is necessary, if the young are to be 
protected from a neglect which would make them unable to 
defend their freedom, and the state should see that all educational 
facilities are available to everybody. But too much state control 
in educational matters is a fatal danger to freedom, since it must 
lead to indoctrination. As already indicated, the important 
and difficult question of the limitations of freedom cannot be 
solved by a cut and dried formula. And the fact that there will 
always be borderline cases must be welcomed, for without the 
stimulus of political problems and political struggles of this 
kind, the citizens’ readiness to fight for their freedom would soon 
disappear, and with it, their freedom. (Viewed in this light, the 
alleg^ clash between freedom and security, that is, a security 
guaranteed by the state, turns out to be a chimera. For there is 
no freedom if it is not secured by the state ; and conversely, 
only a state which is controlled by free citizens can oflfer them 
any reasonable security at all.) 


Plato’s politics 

Stated in this way, the protectionist theory of the state is free 
from any elements of historicism or essentialism. It does not say 
that the state originated as an association of individuals with a 
protectionist aim, or that any actual state in history was ever con- 
sciously ruled in accordance with this aim. And it says nothing 
about the essential nature of the state, or about a natural right 
to freedom. Nor does it say anything about the way in which 
states actually function. It formulates a political demand^ or more 
precisely, u proposal for the adoption of a certain policy. I suspect, 
however, that many conventionalists who have described the 
state as originating from an association for the protection of its 
members, intended to express this very demand, though they did 
it in a clumsy and misleading language — the language of his- 
toricism, A similar misleading way of expressing this demand is 
to assert that it is essentially the function of the state to protect 
its members ; or to assert that the state is to be defined as an 
association for mutual protection. All these theories must be 
translated, as it were, into the language of demands or pro- 
posals for political actions before they can be seriously discussed. 
Otherwise, endless discussions of a merely verbal character are 

An example of such a translation may be given. A criticism 
of what I call protectionism has been proffered by Aristotle 
and repeated by Burke, and by many modern Platonists. This 
criticism asserts that protectionism takes too mean a view of the 
tasks of the state which is (using Burke’s words) ^ to be looked 
upon with other reverence, because it is not a partnership in 
things subservient only to the gross animal existence of a tem- 
porary and perishable nature In other words, the state is said 
to be something higher or nobler than an association with rational 
ends ; it is an object of worship. It has higher tasks than the 
protection of human beings and their rights. It has moral tasks. 
^ To take care of virtue is the business of a state which truly 
deserves this name ’, says Aristotle. If we try to translate this 
criticism into the language of political demands, then we find 
that these critics of protectionism want two things. First, they 
wish to make the state an object of worship. From our point of 
view, there is nothing to say against this wish. It is a religious 
problem ; and the state-worshippers must solve for themselves 
how to reconcile their creed with their other religious beliefs, for 
example, with the First Commandment. The second demand 
is poHticaL In practice, this demand would simply mean that 


officers of the state should be concerned with the morality of "the 
citizens, and that they should use their power not so much for 
the protection of the citizens’ freedom as for the control of their 
moral life. In other words, it is the demand that the realm of 
legality, i.e. of state-enforced norms, should be increased at the 
expense of the realm of morality proper, i.e. of norms enforced 
not by the state but by our own moral decisions — by our con- 
science. Such a demand or proposal can be rationally discussed ; 
and it can be said against it that those who raise such demands 
apparently do not see that this would be the end of the individual’s 
moral responsibility, and that it would not improve but destroy 
morality. It would replace personal responsibility by tribalistic 
taboos and by the totalitarian irresponsibility of the individual. 
Against this whole attitude, the individualist must maintain that 
the morality of states (if there is any such thing) tends to be 
considerably lower than that of the average citizen, so that it 
is much more desirable that the morality of the state should be 
controlled by the citizens than the opposite. What we need and 
what we want is to moralize politics, and not to politicize 

’ It should be mentioned that, from the protectionist point of 
view, the existing democratic states, though far from perfect, 
represent a very considerable achievement in social engineering 
of the right kind. Many forms of crime, of attack on the rights 
of human individuals by other individuals, have been practically 
suppressed or very considerably reduced, and courts of law 
administer justice fairly successfully in difficult conflicts of interest. 
There are many who think that the extension of these methods 
to international crime and international conflict is only a Utopian 
dream ; but it is not so long since the institution of an effective 
executive for upholding civil peace appeared Utopian to those 
who suffered under the threats of criminals, in countries where 
at present civil peace is quite successfully maintained. And I 
think that the engineering problems of the control of international 
crime are really not so difficult, once they are squarely and 
rationally faced. If the matter is presented clearly, it will not 
be hard to get people to agree that protective institutions are 
necessary, both on a regional and on a world-wide scale. Let 
the state-worshippers continue to worship the state, but demand 
that the institutional technologists be allowed not only to improve 
its internal machinery, but also to build up an organization for 
the prevention of international crime. 

Plato’s poutigs 



Returning now to the history of these movements, it seems that 
the protectionist theory of the state was first proffered by the 
Sophist Lycophron, a pupil of Gorgias. It has already been 
mentioned that he was (like Alcidamas, also a pupil of Gorgias) 
one of the first to attack the theory of natural privilege* That 
he held the theory which I have called ‘ protectionism ’ is recorded 
by Aristotle, who speaks about him in a manner which makes it 
very likely that he originated it. From the same source we learn 
that he formulated it with a clarity which has hardly been attained 
by any of his successors. 

Aristotle tells us that Lycophron considered the law of the 
state as a ' covenant by which men assure one another of justice ’ 
(and that it has not the power to make citizens good or just). 
He tells us furthermore that Lycophron looked upon the state 
as an instrument for the protection of its citizens against acts of 
injustice (and for permitting them peaceful intercourse, especially 
exchange), demanding that the state should be a ‘ co-operative 
association for the prevention of crime It is interesting that 
there is no indication in Aristotle’s account that Lycophron 
expressed his theory in a historicist form, i.e. as a theory concern- 
ing the historical origin of the state in a social contract. On the 
contrary, it emerges clearly from Aristotle’s context that Lyco- 
phron’s theory was solely concerned with the end of the state ; 
for Aristotle argues that Lycophron has not seen that the essential 
end of the state is to make its citizens virtuous. This indicates 
that Lycophron interpreted this end rationally, from a techno- 
logical point of view, adopting the demands of equalitarianism, 
individualism, and protectionism. 

In this form, Lycophron’s theory is completely secure from 
the objections to which the traditional historicist theory of the 
social contract is exposed. It is often said, for instance by 
Barker that the contract theory ‘ has been met by modern 
thinkers point by point ’. That may be so ; but a survey of 
Barker’s points will show that they certainly do not meet the 
theory of Lycophron, in whom Barker sees (and in this point I 
am inclined to agree with him) the probable founder of the 
earliest form of a theory which has later been called the contract 
theory. Barker’s points can be set down as follows (a) There 
was, historically, never a contract ; {b) the state was, historically, 
never instituted ; (c) laws are not conventional, but arise out of 


tradition, superior force, perhaps instinct, etc. ; they are customs 
before they become codes ; {d) the strength of the laws does not 
lie in the sanctions, in the protective power of the state which 
enforces them, but in the individual’s readiness to obey them, 
i.e. in the individuaFs moral will. 

It will be seen at once that objections (^z), (5), and («;), which 
in themselves are admittedly fairly correct (although there have 
been some contracts) concern the theory only in its historicist 
form and are irrelevant to Lycophron’s version. We therefore 
need not consider them at all. Objection (i),Jiowever, deserves 
closer consideration. What can be meant by it ? The theory 
attacked stresses the ‘ will ’, or better the decision of the indivi- 
dual, more than any other theory ; in fact, the word ‘ contract ’ 
suggests an agreement by ‘ free will ’ ; it suggests, perhaps more 
than any other theory, that the strength of the laws lies in the 
individuaFs readiness to accept and to obey them. How, then, 
can {d) be an objection against the contract theory ? The only 
explanation seems to be that Barker does not think the contract 
to spring from the ‘ moral will ’ of the individual, but rather from 
a selfish will ; and this interpretation is the more likely as it is in 
keeping with Plato’s criticism. But one need not be selfish in 
order to be a protectionist. Protection need not mean self-pro- 
tection ; many people insure their lives with the aim of protecting 
others and not themselves, and in the same way they may demand 
state protection mainly for others, and to a lesser degree (or 
not at all) for themselves. The fundamental idea of protec- 
tionism is : protect the weak from being bullied by the strong. 
This demand has been raised not only by the weak, but often 
by the strong also. It is, to say the least of it, misleading to 
suggest that it is a selfish or an immoral demand. 

Lycophron’s protectionism is, I think, free of all these objec- 
tions. It is the most fitting expression of the humanitarian and 
equalitarian movement of the Periclean age. And yet, we have 
been robbed of it. It has been handed down to later generations 
only in a distorted form ; as the historicist theory of the origin 
of the state in a social contract ; or as an essentialist theory 
claiming that the true nature of the state is that of a convention ; 
and as a theory of selfishness, based on the assumption of the 
fundamentally immoral nature of man. All this is due to the 
overwhelming influence of Plato’s authority. 

Plato's politics 



There can be little doubt that Plato knew Lycophron’s theory 
well, for he was (in all likelihood) Lycophron's younger contem- 
porary. And, indeed, this theory can be easily identified with 
one which is mentioned first in the Gorgias and later in the Republic. 
(In neither place does Plato mention its author ; a procedure 
often adopted by him when his opponent was alive.) In the 
Gorgias^ the theory is expounded by Callicles, an ethical nihilist 
like the Thrasymachus of the Republic. In the Republic^ it is 
expounded by Glaucon. In neither case does the speaker 
identify himself with the theory he presents. 

The two passages are in many respects parallel. Both present 
the theory in a historicist form, i.e. as a theory of the origin of 
‘justice Both present it as if its logical premises were neces- 
sarily selfish and even nihilistic ; i.e. as if the protectionist view 
of the state was upheld only by those who would like to inflict 
injustice, but are too weak to do so, and who therefore demand 
that the strong should not do so either ; a presentation which is 
certainly not fair, since the only necessary premise of the theory 
is the demand that crime, or injustice, should be suppressed. 

So far, the two passages in the Gorgias and in the Republic run 
parallel, a parallelism which has often been commented upon. 
But there is a tremendous difference between them which has, 
so far as I know, been overlooked by commentators. It is this. 
In the Gorgias^ the theory is presented by Callicles as one which 
he opposes ; and since he also opposes Socrates, the protectionist 
theory is, by implication, not attacked but rather defended by 
Plato. And, indeed, a closer view shows that Socrates upholds 
several of its features against the nihilist Callicles. But in the 
Republic^ the same theory is presented by Glaucon as an elabora- 
tion and development of the views of Thrasymachus, i.e. of the 
nihilist who takes here the place of Callicles ; in other words, 
the theory is presented as nihilist, and Socrates as the hero who 
victoriously destroys this devilish doctrine of selfishness. 

Thus the passages in which most commentators find a 
similarity between the tendencies of the Gorgias and the Republic 
reveal, in fact, a complete change of front. In spite of Callicles’ 
hostile presentation, the tendency of the Gorgias is favourable to 
protectionism ; but the Republic is violently against it. 

Here is an extract from Calli^ es’ speech in the Gorgias : 
‘ The laws are made by the great mass of the people which 


consists mainly of the weak men. And they make the laws . . 
in order to protect themselves and their interests. Thus they 
deter the stronger men . . and all others who might get the 
better of them, from doing so ; . . and they mean by the word 

injustice the attempt of a man to get the better of his neigh- 
bours ; and being aware of their inferiority, they are, I should 
say, only too glad if they can obtain equality.’ If we look at 
this account and eliminate what is due to Callicles’ open scorn 
and hostility, then we find all the elements of Lycophron’s 
theory : equalitarianism, individualism, and protection against 
injustice. Even the reference to the ^ strong ’ and to the " weak ’ 
who are aware of their inferiority fits the protectionist view very 
well indeed, provided the element of caricature is allowed for. 
It is not at all unlikely that Lycophron’s doctrine explicitly 
raised the demand that the state should protect the weak, a 
demand which is, of course, anything but ignoble. (The hope 
that this demand will one day be fulfilled is expressed by the 
Christian teaching : ' The meek shall inherit the earth.’) 

Callicles himself does not like protectionism ; he is in favour 
of the ^ natural ’ rights of the stronger. It is very significant that 
Socrates, in his argument against Callicles, comes to the rescue 
of protectionism; for he connects it with his own central thesis — 
that it is better to suffer injustice than to inflict it. He says, for 
instance ‘ Are not the many ^of the opinion, as you were 
lately saying, that justice is equality ? And also that it is more 
disgraceful to inflict injustice than to suffer it ? ’ And later : 

^ . . nature itself, and not only convention, affirms that to 
inflict injustice is more disgraceful than to suffer it, and that 
justice is equality.’ (In spite of its individualistic and equali-' 
tarian and protectionist tendencies, the Gorgias also exhibits some 
leanings which are strongly anti-democratic. The explanation 
may be that Plato when writing the Gorgias had not yet developed 
his totalitarian theories ; although his sympathies were already 
anti-democratic, he was still under Socrates’ influence. How any- 
body can think that the Gorgias and the Republic can be both at the 
same time true accounts of Socrates’ opinions, I fail to understand). 

Let us now turn to the Republic^ where Glaucon presents 
protectionism as a logically more stringent but ethically un- 
changed version of Thrasymachus’ nihilism. ^ My theme ’, says 
Glaucon ^ is the origin of justice, and what sort of thing it 
really is. According to some it is by nature an excellent thing 
to inflict injustice upon others, and a bad thing to suffer it. But 

p.S.I.E.— VOL. I E 

Plato’s politics 


they hold that the badness of suffering injustice much exceeds 
the desirability of inflicting it. For a time, then, men will inflict 
injustice on one another, and of course suffer it, and they will get 
a good taste of both. But ultimately, those who are not strong 
enough to repel it, or to enjoy inflicting it, decide that it is more 
profitable for them to join in a contract, mutually assuring one 
another that no one should inflict injustice, or suffer it. This is 
the way in which laws were established. . . And this is the 
nature and the origin of justice, according to that theory.’ 

As far as its rational content goes, this is clearly the same 
theory ; and the way in which it is represented also resembles in 
detail Callicles’ speech in the Gorgias. And yet, Plato has made 
a complete change of front. The protectionist theory is now no 
longer defended against the allegation that it is based on cynical 
egoism ; on the contrary. Our humanitarian sentiments, our 
moral indignation, already aroused by Thrasymachus’ nihilism, 
are utilized for turning us into enemies of protectionism. This 
theory, whose humanitarian character has been indicated^ in the 
Gorgias, is now made by Plato to appear as anti-humanitarian, 
and indeed, as the outcome of the repulsive and most uncon- 
vincing doctrine that injustice is a very good thing — for those 
who can get away with it. And he does not hesitate to rub this 
point in. In an extensive continuation of the passage quoted, 
Glaucon elaborates in much detail the allegedly necessary assump- 
tions or premises of protectionism. Among these he mentions, 
for instance, the view that the inflicting of injustice is ‘ the best 
of all things ’ ; that justice is established only because many 

men are too weak to commit crimes ; and that to the indivi- 
dual citizen, a life of crime would be most profitable. And 
^ ^ Socrates i.e. Plato, vouches explicitly for the authenticity 
of Glaucon’s interpretation of the theory presented. By this 
method, Plato seems to have succeeded in persuading most of 
his readers, and at any rate all Platonists, that the protectionist 
theory here developed is identical with the ruthless and cynical 
selfishness of Thrasymachus ; and, what is more important, 
that all forms of individualism amount to the same, namely, 
selfishness. But it was not only his admirers he persuaded ; he 
even succeeded in persuading his opponents, and especially 
the adherents of the contract theory. From Carneades to 
Hobbes, they not only adopted his fatal historicist presentation, 
but also Plato’s assurances that the basis of their theory was an 
ethical nihilism. 


Now it must be realized that the elaboration of its allegedly 
selfish basis is the whole of Plato’s argument against protectionism ; 
and considering the space taken up by this elaboration, we may 
safely assume that it was not his reticence which made him proffer 
no better argument, but the fact that he had none. Thus 
protectionism had to be dismissed by an appeal to our moral 
sentiments — as an affront against the idea of justice, and against 
our feelings of decency. 

This is Plato’s method of dealing with a theory which was not 
only a dangerous rival of his own doctrine, but also representative 
of the new humanitarian and individualistic creed, i.e. the arch- 
enemy of everything that was dear to Plato. The method is 
clever ; its astonishing success proves it. But I should not be 
fair if I did not frankly admit that Plato’s method appears to me 
dishonest. For the theory attacked does not need any assumption 
more immoral than that injustice is evil, i.e. that it should be 
avoided, and brought under control. And Plato knew quite well 
that the theory was not based on selfishness, for in the Gorgias he 
had presented it not as identical with the nihilistic theory from 
which it is ‘ derived ’ in the Republic^ but as opposed to it. 

Summing up, we can say that Plato’s theory of justice, as 
presented in the Republic and later works, is a conscious attempt 
to get the better of the equalitarian, individualistic, and pro- 
tectionist tendencies of his time, and to re-establish the claims of 
tribalism by developing a totalitarian moral theory. At the 
same time, he was strongly impressed by the new humanitarian 
morality ; but instead of combating equalitarianism with argu- 
ments, he avoided even discussing it. And he successfully enlisted 
the humanitarian sentiments, whose strength he knew so well, in the 
cause of the totalitarian class rule of a naturally superior master race. 

These class prerogatives, he claimed, are necessary for uphold- 
ing the stability of the state. They constitute therefore the essence 
of justice. Ultimately, this claim is based upon the argument 
that justice is useful to the might, health, and stability of the 
state ; an argument which is only too similar to the modem 
totalitarian definition : right is whatever is useful to the might 
of my nation, or my class, or my party. 

But this is not yet the whole story. By its emphasis on class 
prerogative, Plato’s theory of justice puts the problem ‘ Who 
should rule ? ’ in the centre of political theory. . His reply to 
this question was that the wisest, and the best, should mle. Does 
not this excellent reply modify the character of his theory ? 


The wise shall lead and rule, and the ignorant 
shall follow. 


Certain objections ^ to our interpretation of Plato’s political 
programme have forced us into an investigation of the part played, 
within this programme, by such moral ideas as Justice, Goodness, 
Beauty, Wisdom, Truth, and Happiness. The present and the 
two following chapters are to continue this analysis, and the part 
played by the idea of Wisdom in Plato’s political philosophy will 
occupy us next. 

We have seen that Plato’s idea of justice demands, funda- 
mentally, that the natural rulers should rule and the natural slaves 
should slave. It is part of the historicist demand that the state, 
in order to arrest all change, should be a copy of its Idea, or of 
its true ‘ nature This theory of justice indicates very clearly 
that Plato saw the fundamental problem of politics in the ques- 
tion : W/io shall rule the state ? 


It is my conviction that by expressing the problem of politics 
in the form ‘ Who should rule ? ’ or ‘ Whose will should be 
supreme ? etc., Plato created a lasting confusion in political 
philosophy. It is indeed analogous to the confusion he created 
in the field of moral philosophy by his identification, discussed in 
the last chapter, of collectivism and altruism. It is clear that 
once the question ^ Who should rule ? ’ is asked, it is hard to 
avoid some such reply as ‘ the best ’ or ' the wisest ’ or ^ the born 
ruler ’ or ‘ he who masters the art of ruling ’ (or, perhaps, 
‘ The General Will ’ or ^ The Master Race ’ or ‘ The Industrial 
Workers’ or ‘The People’). But such a reply, convincing as 
it may sound — ^for who would advocate the rule of ‘ the worst ’ 
or ‘ the greatest fool ’ or ‘ the born slave ’ ? — is, as I shall try 
to show, quite useless. 

First of all, such a reply is liable to persuade us that some 
fundamental problem of political theory has been solved. But 
if we approach political theory from a different angle, then we 
find that far from solving any fundamental problems, we have 




merely skipped over them, by assuming that the question ^ Who 
should rule ? ’ is fundamental. For even those who share this 
assumption of Plato’s admit that political rulers are not always 
sufficiently ^ good ’ or ' wise ’ (we need not worry about the 
precise meaning of these terms), and that it is not at all easy to 
get a government on whose goodness and wisdom one can 
implicitly rely. If that is granted, then we must ask whether 
political thought should not face from the beginning the possibility 
of bad government ; whether we should not prepare for the 
worst leaders, and hope for the best. But this leads to a new 
approach to the problem of politics, for it forces us to replace 
the question : M'^ko should rule ? by the new ^ question : How can 
we so organize political institutions that bad or incompetent rulers can be 
prevented from doing too much damage? 

Those who believe that the older question is fundamental, 
tacitly assume that political power is ‘ essentially ’ unchecked. 
They assume that someone has the power — either an individual 
or a collective body, such as a class. And they assume that he 
who has the power can, very nearly, do what he wills, and 
especially that he can strengthen his power, and thereby approxi- 
mate it further to an unlimited or unchecked power. They 
assume that political power is, essentially, sovereign. If this 
assumption is made, then, indeed, the question ^ Who is to be 
the sovereign ? ’ is the only important question left. 

I shall call this assumption the theory of [unchecked) sovereignty^ 
using this expression not for any particular one of the various 
theories of sovereignty, proffered more especially by such writers 
as Bodin, Rousseau, or Hegel, but for the more general assump- 
tion that political power is practically unchecked, or for the 
demand that it ought to be so ; together with the implication 
that the main question left is to get this power into the best 
hands. This theory of sovereignty is tacitly assumed in Plato’s 
approach, and has played its role ever since. It is also implicitly 
assumed, for instance, by those modern writers who believe that 
the main problem is : Who should dictate ? The capitalists or 
the workers ? 

Without entering into a detailed criticism, I wish to point out 
that there are serious objections against a rash and implicit 
acceptance of this theory. Whatever its speculative merits may 
appear to be, it is certainly a very unrealistic assumption. No 
political power has ever been unchecked, and as long as men 
remain human (as long as the ^ Brave New World’ has not 


Plato’s politics 

materialized), there can be no absolute and unrestrained political 
power. So long as one man cannot accumulate enough physical 
power in his hands to dominate all others, just so long must 
he depend upon his helpers. Even the most powerful tyrant 
depends upon his secret police,- his henchmen and his hangmen. 
This dependence means that his power, great as it may be, is 
not unchecked, and that he has to make concessions, playing 
one group off against another. It means that there are other 
political forces, other powers besides his own, and that he can 
exert his rule only by utilizing and pacifying them. This shows 
that even the extreme cases of sovereignty are never cases of pure 
sovereignty. They are never ca^es in which the will or the 
interest of one man (or, if there were such a thing, the will or 
the interest of one group) can achieve his aim directly, without 
giving up some of it in order to enlist powers which he cannot 
conquer. And in an overwhelming number of cases, the limita- 
tions of political power go much further than this. 

I have stressed these empirical points, not because I wish to 
use them as an argument, but merely in order to avoid objections. 
My claim is that every theory of sovereignty omits to face a more 
fundamental question — the question, namely, whether we should 
not strive towards institutional control of the rulers by balancing 
their powers against other powers. This theory of checks and bal- 
ances can at least claim careful consideration. The only objec- 
tions to this claim, as far as I can see, are {a) that such a control 
is practically impossible, or {b) that it is essentially inconceivable 
since political power is essentially sovereign Both of these 
dogmatic objections are, I believe, refuted by the facts ; and 
with them fall a number of other influential views (for instance, 
the theory that the only alternative to the dictatorship of one class 
is that of another class). 

In order to raise the question of institutional control of the 
rulers, we need not assume more than that' governments are' not 
always good or wise. But since I have said something about 
historical facts, I think I should confess that I feel inclined to go a 
little beyond this assumption. I am inclined to think that rulers 
have rarely been above the average, either morally or intel- 
lectually, and often below it. And I think that it is reasonable 
to adopt, in politics, the principle of preparing for the worst, as 
well as we can, though we should, of course, at the same time 
try to obtain the best. It appears to me madness to base all our 
political efforts upon the faint hope that we shall be successful 


in obtaining excellent, or even competent, rulers. Strongly as I 
feel in these matters, I must insist, however, that my criticism of 
the theory of sovereignty does not depend on these more personal 

Apart from these personal opinions, and apart from the above 
mentioned empirical arguments against the general theory of 
sovereignty, there is also a kind of logical argument which can 
be used to show the inconsistency of any of the particular forms 
of the theory of sovereignty ; more precisely, the logical argu- 
ment can be given different but analogous forms to combat the 
theory that the wisest should rule, or else the theories that the 
best, or the law, or the majority, etc., should rule. One par- 
ticular form of this logical argument is directed against a too 
naive version of liberalism, of democracy, and of the principle 
that the majority should rule ; and it is somewhat similar to 
the well-known " paradox of freedom ’ which has been used first, 
and with success, by Plato. In his criticism of democracy, and 
in his story of the rise of the tyrant, Plato raises implicitly the 
following question : What if it is the will of the people that they 
should not rule, but a tyrant instead ? The free man, Plato 
suggests, may exercise his absolute freedom, first by defying the 
laws and ultimately by defying freedom itself and by clamouring 
for a tyrant This is not just a far-fetched possibility ; it has 
happened a number of times ; and every time it has happened, 
it has put in a hopeless intellectual position all those democrats 
who adopt, as the ultimate basis of their political creed, the 
principle of the majority rule or a similar form of the principle 
of sovereignty. On the one hand, the principle they have adopted 
demands from them that they should oppose any but the majority 
rule, and therefore the new tyranny ; on the other hand, the 
same principle demands from them that they should accept any 
decision reached by the majority, and thus the rule of the new 
tyrant. The inconsistency of their theory must, of course, para- 
lyse their actions^. Those of us democrats who demand the 
institutional control of the rulers by the ruled, and especially 
the right of dismissing the government by a majority vote, must 
therefore base these demands upon better grounds than a self- 
contradictory theory of sovereignty. (That this is possible will 
be briefly shown in the next section of this chapter.) 

Plato, we have seen, came near to discovering the paradoxes 
of freedom and of democracy. But what Plato and his followers 
overlooked is that all the other forms of the theory of sovereignty 


give rise to analogous inconsistencies. All theories of sovereignty are 
paradoxical. For instance, we may have selected the wisest ’ or 
‘ the best ’ as a ruler. But ^ the wisest ’ in his wisdom may find 
that not he but ‘ the best ’ should rule, and ' the best ’ in his 
goodness may perhaps decide that ‘ the majority ’ should rule. 
It is important to notice that even that form of the theory of 
sovereignty which demands the ‘ Kingship of the Law ^ is open 
to the same objection. This, in fact, has been seen very early, 
as Heraclitus’ remark® shows : ^ The law can demand, too, that 
the will of One Man must be obeyed.’ 

In summing up this brief criticism, one can, I believe, assert 
that the theory of sovereignty is in a weak position, both empirically 
and logically. The least that can be demanded is that it must 
not be adopted without careful consideration of other possibilities. 


And indeed, it is not difficult to show that a theory of demo- 
cratic control can be developed which is free of the paradox of 
sovereignty. The theory I have in mind is one which does not 
proceed, as it were, from a doctrine of the intrinsic goodness or 
righteousness of a majority rule, but rather from the baseness of 
tyranny ; or more precisely, it rests upon the decision, or upon 
the adoption of the proposal, to avoid and to resist tyranny. 

For we may distinguish two main types of government. The 
first type consists of governments of which we can get rid without 
bloodshed — for example, by way of general elections ; that is to 
say, the social institutions provide means by which the rulers 
may be dismissed by the ruled, and the social traditions ’ ensure 
that these institutions will not easily be destroyed by those who 
are in power. The second type consists of governments which 
the ruled cannot get rid of except by way of a successful revolu- 
tion — that is to say, in most cases, not at all. I suggest the 
term ‘ democracy ’ as a short-hand label for a government of 
the first type, and the term ‘ tyranny ’ or ' dictatorship ’ for the 
second. This, I believe, corresponds closely to traditional usage. 
But I wish to make clear that no part of my argument depends 
on the choice of these labels ; and should anybody reverse this 
usage (as is frequently done nowadays), then I should simply 
say that I am in favour of what he calls ' tyranny and object 
to what he calls " democracy ’ and I should reject as irrelevant 
any attempt to discover what ‘ democracy ’ really ’ or ' essen- 
tially ’ means, for example, by translating the term into ^ the 



rule of the people (For although ‘ the people ’ may influence 
the actions of their rulers by the threat of dismissal, they never 
rule themselves in any concrete, practical sense.) 

If we make use of the two labels as suggested, then we can 
now describe, as the principle of a democratic policy, the pro- 
posal to create, develop, and protect, political institutions for the 
avoidance of tyranny. This principle does not imply that we 
can ever develop institutions of this kind which are faultless or 
foolproof, or which ensure that the policies adopted by a demo- 
cratic government will be right or good or wise — or even neces- 
sarily better or wiser than the policies adopted by a benevolent 
tyrant. (Since no such assertions are made, the paradox of 
democracy is avoided.) What may be said, however, to be 
implied in the adoption of the democratic principle is the con- 
viction that the acceptance of even a bad policy in a democracy 
(as long as we can work for a peaceful change) is preferable to 
the submission to a tyranny, however wise or benevolent. Seen 
in this light, the theory of democracy is not based upon the 
principle that the majority should rule ; rather, the various 
equalitarian methods of democratic control, such as general elec- 
tions and representative government, are to be considered as no 
more than well-tried and, in the presence of a widespread tradi- 
tional distrust of tyranny, reasonably effective institutional safe- 
guards against tyranny, always open to improvement, and even 
providing methods for their own improvement. 

He who accepts the principle of democracy in this sense is 
therefore not bound to look upon the result of a democratic vote 
as an authoritative expression of what is right. Although he 
will accept a decision of the majority, for the sake of making 
the democratic institutions work, he will feel free to combat it 
by democratic means, and to work for its revision. And should 
he live to see the day when the majority vote destroys the demo- 
cratic institutions, then this sad experience will tell him only that 
there does not exist a foolproof method of avoiding tyranny. 
But it need not weaken his decision to fight tyranny, nor will 
it expose his theory as inconsistent. 


Returning to Plato, we find that by his emphasis upon the 
problem ^ who should rule he implicitly assumed the general 
theory of sovereignty. The question of an institutional control 
of the rulers, and of an institutional balancing of their powers, 


Plato’s politics 

is thereby eliminated without ever ha\ing been raised. The 
interest is shifted from institutions to questions of personnel, and 
the most urgent problem now becomes that of selecting the 
natural leaders, and that of training them for leadership. 

In view of this fact some people think that in Plato’s theory, 
the welfare of the state is ultimately an ethical and spiritual 
matter, depending on persons and personal responsibility rather 
than on the construction of impersonal institutions. I believe 
that this view of Platonism is superficial. All long-term politics are 
institutional There is no escape from that, not even jfor Plato. 
The principle of leadership does not replace institutional prob- 
lems by problems of personnel, it only creates new institutional 
problems. As we shall see, it even burdens the institutions with 
a task which goes beyond what can be reasonably demanded 
from a mere institution, namely, with the task of selecting the 
future leadeis. It would be therefore a mistake to think that the 
opposition between the theory of balances and the theory of 
sovereignty corresponds to that between institutionalism and 
personalism. Plato’s principle of leadership is far removed from 
a pure personalism since it involves the working of institutions ; 
and indeed it may be said that a pure personalism is impossible. 
But it must be said that a pure institutionalism is impossible also. 
Not only'does the construction of institutions involve important 
personal decisions, but the functioning of even the best institutions 
(such as democratic checks and balances) will always depend, to 
a considerable degree, on the persons involved. Institutions are 
like fortresses. They must be well designed and manned. 

This distinction between the personal and the institutional 
element in a social situation is a point which is often missed 
by the critics of democracy. Most of them are dissatisfied with 
democratic institutions because they find that these do not neces- 
sarily prevent a state or a policy firom falling short of some moral 
standards or of some political demands which may be urgent as 
well as admirable. But these critics misdirect their attacks ; they 
do not understand what democratic institutions may be expected 
to do, and what the alternative to democratic institutions would 
be. Democracy (using this label in the sense suggested above) 
provides the institutional framework for the reform of political 
institutions. It makes possible the reform of institutions without 
using violence, and thereby the use of reason in the designing of 
new institutions and the adjusting of old ones. It cannot provide 
reason. The question of the intellectual and moral standard of 


its citizens is to a large degree a personal problem. (The idea 
that this problem can be tackled, in turn, by an institutional 
eugenic and educational control is, I believe, mistaken ; some 
reasons for my belief will be given below.) It is quite wrong to 
blame democracy for the political shortcomings of a democratic 
state. We should rather blame ourselves, that is to say, the 
citizens of the democratic state. In a non-democratic state, the 
only way to achieve reasonable reforms is by the violent over- 
throw of the government, and the introduction of a democratic 
framework. Those who criticize democracy on any ‘ moral ’ 
grounds fail to distinguish between personal and institutional 
problems. It rests with us to improve matters. The democratic 
institutions cannot improve themselves. The problem of im- 
proving them is always a problem for persons rather than for 
institutions. But if we want improvements, we must make clear 
which institutions we want to improve. 

There is another distinction* within the field of political 
problems corresponding to that between persons and institutions. 
It is the one between the problems of the day and the problems of 
the future. While the problems of the day are largely personal, 
the building of the future must necessarily be institutional. If 
the political problem is approached by asking ‘ Who should rule 
and if Plato’s principle of leadership is adopted — that is to say, 
the principle that the best should rule — then the problem of 
the fiiture must take the form of designing institutions for the 
selection of future leaders. 

This is one of the most important problems in Plato’s theory 
of education. In approaching it I do not hesitate to say that 
Plato utterly corrupted and confused the theory and practice of 
education by linking it up with his theory of leadership. The 
damage done is, if possible, even greater than that inflicted upon 
ethics by the identification of collectivism with altruism, and upon 
political theory by the introduction of the principle of sovereignty. 
Plato’s assumption that it should be the task of education (or 
more precisely, of the educational institutions) to select the future 
leaders, and to train them for leadership, is still largely taken for 
granted. By burdening these institutions with a task which 
must go beyond the scope of any institution, Plato is partly 
responsible for their deplorable state. But before entering into a 
general discussion of his view of the task of education, I wish to 
develop, in more detail, his theory of leadership, the leadership 
of the wise. 


Plato’s politics 


I think it most likely that this theory of Plato’s owes a number 
of its elements to the influence of Socrates. One of the funda- 
mental tenets of Socrates was, I believe, his moral intellectualism. 
By this I understand {a) his identification of goodness and wis- 
dom, his theory that nobody acts against his better knowledge, 
and that lack of knowledge is responsible for all moral mistakes ; 
(5) his theory that moral excellence can be taught, and that it 
does not require any particular moral faculties, apart from the 
universal human intelligence. 

Socrates was a moralist and an enthusiast. He was the type 
of man who would criticize any form of government for its short- 
comings (and indeed, such criticism would be necessary and 
useful for any government, although it is possible only under a 
democracy) but he recognized the importance of being loyal to 
the laws of the state. As it happened, he spent his life largely 
under a democratic form of government, and as a good democrat 
he found it his duty to expose the incompetence and windbaggery 
of some of the democratic leaders of his time. At the same time, 
he opposed any form of tyranny ; and if we consider his cour- 
ageous behaviour under the Thirty Tyrants then we have no 
reason to assume that his criticism of the democratic leaders was 
inspired by anything like anti-democratic leanings®. It is not 
unlikely that he demanded (like Plato) that the best should rule, 
which would have meant, in his view, the wisest, or those who 
knew something about justice. But we must remember that by 
^justice ’ he meant equalitarian justice (as indicated by the pas- 
sages from the Gorgias quoted in the last chapter), and that he 
was not only an equalitarian but also an individualist — perhaps 
the greatest apostle of an individualistic ethics of all time. And 
we should realize that, if he demanded that the wisest men should 
rule, he clearly stressed that he did not mean the learned men ; 
in fact, he was sceptical of all professional learnedness, whether 
it was that of the philosophers of the past or of the learned men 
of his own generation, the Sophists. The wisdom he meant was 
of a different kind. It was sirnply the realization : how little do 
I know ! Those who did not know this, he taught, knew nothing 
at all. (This is the true scientific spirit. Some people still think, 
as Plato did when he had established himself as a learned Pytha- 
gorean sage that Socrates’ agnostic attitude must be explained 
by the lack of success of the science of his day. But this only 


shows that they do not understand this spirit, and that they 
are still possessed by the pre-Socratic magical attitude towards 
science, and towards the scientist, whom they consider as a 
somewhat glorified shaman, as wise, learned, initiated. They 
judge him by the amount of knowledge in his possession, instead of 
taking, with Socrates, his awareness of what he does not know 
as a measure of his scientific level as well as of his intellectual 

It is important to see that this Socratic intellectualism is 
decidedly equalitarian. Socrates believed that everyone can be 
taught ; in the Meno^ we see him teaching a young slave a 
version of the now so-called theorem of Pythagoras, in an 
attempt to prove that any uneducated slave has the capacity to 
grasp even abstract matters. And his intellectualism is also anti- 
authoritarian. A technique, for instance rhetoric, may perhaps 
be dogmatically taught by an expert, according to Socrates ; but 
real knowledge, wisdom, and also virtue, can be taught only by 
a method which he describes as a form of midwifery. Those eager 
to learn may be helped to free themselves from their prejudice ; 
thus they may learn self-criticism, and that truth is not easily 
attained. But they may also learn to make up their minds, and 
to rely, critically, on their decisions, and on their insight. In 
view of such teaching, it is clear how much the Socratic demand 
(if he ever raised this demand) that the best, i.e. the intellectually 
honest, should rule, differs from the authoritarian demand that 
the most learned, or from the aristocratic demand that the best, 
i.e. the most noble, should rule. (Socrates’ belief that even 
courage is wisdom can, I think, be interpreted as a direct criticism 
of the aristocratic doctrine of the nobly born hero.) 

But this moral intellectualism of Socrates is a two-edged 
sword. It has its equalitarian and democratic aspect, which 
was later developed by Antisthenes. But it has also an aspect 
which may give rise to strongly anti-democratic tendencies. Its 
stress upon the need for enlightenment, for education, might 
easily be misinterpreted as a demand for authoritarianism. This 
is connected with a question which seems to have puzzled 
Socrates a great deal : that those who are not sufficiently 
educated, and thus not wise enough to know their deficiencies, 
are just those who are in the greatest need of education. Readi- 
ness to learn in itself proves the possession of wisdom, in fact all 
the wisdom claimed by Socrates for himself ; for he who is ready 
to learn knows how little he knows. The uneducated seems thus 



to be in need of an authority to wake him up, since he cannot 
be expected to be self-critical. But this one element of authori- 
tarianism was wonderfully balanced in Socrates’ teaching by the 
emphasis that the authority must not claim more than that. 
The true teacher can prove himself only by exhibiting that self- 
criticism which the uneducated lacks. ‘ Whatever authority I 
may have rests solely upon my knowing how little I know ’ : 
this is the way in which Socrates might have justified his mission 
to stir up the people from their dogmatic slumber. This 
educational mission he believed to be also a political mission. 
He felt that the way to improve the political life of the city was 
to educate the citizens to self-criticism. In this sense he claimed 
to be ^ the only politician of his day ^ in opposition to those 
others who flatter the people instead of furthering their true 

This Socratic identification of his educational and political 
activity could easily be distorted into the Platonic and Aristotelian 
demand that the state should look after the moral life of its 
citizens. And it can easily be used for a dangerously convincing 
proof that all democratic control is vicious. Tor how can those 
whose task it is to educate be judged by the uneducated ? How 
can the better be controlled by the less good ? But this argument 
is, of course, entirely un-Socratic. It assumes an authority of 
the wise and learned man, and goes far beyond Socrates’ modest 
idea of the teacher’s authority as founded solely on his con- 
sciousness of his own limitations. State-authority in these 
matters is liable to achieve, in fact, the exact opposite of Socrates’ 
aim. It is liable to produce dogmatic self-satisfaction and 
massive intellectual complacency, instead of critical dissatisfaction 
and eagerness for improvement. I do not think that it is 
unnecessary to stress this danger which is seldom clearly realized. 
Even an author like Crossman, who, I believe, understood the 
true Socratic spirit, agrees with Plato in what he calls Plato’s 
third criticism of Athens : ' Education^ which should be the major 
responsibility of the State^ had been left to individual caprice . . 
Here again was a task which should be entrusted only to the man 
of proven probity. The future of any State depends on the 
younger generation, and it is therefore madness to allow the 
minds of children to be moulded by individual taste and force of 
circumstances. Equally disastrous had been the State’s laissez 
faire policy with regard to teachers and schoolmasters and sophist- 
lecturers.’ But the Athenian state’s laissez faire policy, criti- 


cized by Crossman and Plato, had the invaluable result of 
enabling certain sophist-lecturers to teach, and especially the 
greatest of them all, Socrates. And when this policy was later 
dropped, the result was Socrates’ death. This should be a warn- 
ing that state control in such matters is dangerous, and that the 
cry for the ' man of proven probity ’ may easily lead to the sup- 
pression of the best. (Bertrand Russell’s recent suppression is a 
case in point.) But as far as basic principles are concerned, we 
have here an instance of the deeply rooted prejudice that the 
only alternative to laissez faire is full state responsibility. I cer- 
tainly believe that it is the responsibility of the state to see that 
its citizens are given an education enabling them to participate 
in the life of the community, and to make use of any opportunity 
to develop their special interests and gifts ; and the state should 
certainly also see (as Crossman rightly stresses) that the lack of 
^ the individual’s capacity to pay ’ should not debar him from 
higher studies. This, I believe, belongs to the state’s protective 
functions. To say, however, that ‘ the future of the state depends 
on the younger generation, and that it is therefore madness to 
allow the minds of children to be moulded by individual taste ’, 
appears to me to open wide the door to totalitarianistn. State 
interest must not be lightly invoked to defend measures which 
may endanger the most precious of all forms of freedom, namely, 
intellectual freedom. And although I do not advocate ‘ laissez 
faire with regard to teachers and schoolmasters ’, I believe that 
this policy is infinitely superior to an authoritative policy that 
gives officers of the state full powers to mould minds, and to 
control the teaching of science, thereby backing the dubious 
authority of the expert by that of the state, ruining science by 
the customary practice of teaching it as an authoritative doctrine, 
and destroying the scientific spirit of inquiry — the spirit of the 
search for truth, as opposed to the belief in its possession. 

I have tried to show that Socrates’ intellectualism was funda- 
mentally equalitarian and individualistic, and that the element 
of authoritarianism which it involved was reduced to a minimum 
by Socrates’ intellectual modesty and his scientific attitude. The 
intellectualism of Plato is very different from this. The Platonic 
‘ Socrates ’ of the Republic is the embodiment of an unmitigated 
authoritarianism. (Even his self-deprecating remarks are not 
based upon awareness of his limitations, but are rather an ironical 
way of asserting his superiority.) His educational aim is not 
the awakening of self-criticism and of critical thought in general. 

Plato's politics 


It is, rather, indoctrination — the moulding of minds and of souls 
which (to repeat a quotation from the Laws are ' to become, 
by long habit, utterly incapable of doing anything at all independ- 
ently And Socrates' great equalitarian and liberating idea that 
it is possible to reason with a slave, and that there is an intellectual 
link between man and man, a medium of universal understanding, 
namely, ‘ reason ', this idea is replaced by a demand for an 
educational monopoly of the ruling class, coupled with the 
strictest censorship, even of oral debates. 

Socrates had stressed that he was not wise ; that he was not 
in the possession of truth, but that he was a searcher, an inquirer, 
a lover of truth. This, he explained, is expressed by the word 
^ philosopher i.e. the lover of wisdom, and the seeker for it, as 
opposed to ‘ Sophist ', i.e. the professionally wise man. If ever 
he claimed that statesmen should be philosophers, he could only 
have meant that, burdened with an excessive responsibility, they 
should be searchers for truth, and conscious of their limitations. 

How did Plato convert this doctrine ? At first sight, it might 
appear that he did not alter it at all, when demanding that the 
sovereignty of the state should be invested in the philosophers ; 
especially since, like Socrates, he defined philosophers as lovers of 
truth. But the change made by Plato is indeed tremendous. 
His lover is no longer the modest seeker, he is the proud possessor 
of truth. A trained dialectician, he is capable of intellectual 
intuition, i.e. of seeing, and of communicating with, the eternal, 
the heavenly Forms or Ideas. Placed high above all ordinary 
men, he is * god-like, if not . . divine ' both in his wisdom 
and in his power. Plato's ideal philosopher approaches both to 
omniscience and to omnipotence. He is the Philosopher-King. 
It is hard, I think, to conceive a greater contrast than that 
between the Socratic and the Platonic ideal of a philosopher. It 
is the contrast between two worlds — the , world of a modest, 
rational individualist and that of a totalitarian demi-god. 

Plato's demand that the wise man should rule — the possessor 
of truth, the ‘ fully qualified philosopher ’ — raises, of course, 

the problem of selecting and educating the rulers. In a purely 
personalist (as opposed to an institutional) theory, this problem 
might be solved simply by declaring that the wise ruler will in 
his wisdom be wise enough to choose the best man for his suc- 
cessor. This is not, however, a very satisfactory approach to the 
problem. Too much would depend on uncontrolled circum- 
stances ; an accident may destroy the future stability of the state. 


But the attempt to control circumstances, to foresee what might 
happen and to provide for it, must lead here, as everywhere, to 
the abandonment of a purely personalist solution, and to its 
replacement by an institutional one. As already stated, the 
attempt to plan for the future must always lead to institutionalism. 


The institution which according to Plato has to look after 
the future leaders can be described as the educational department 
of the state. It is, from a purely political point of view, by far 
the most important institution within Plato’s society. It holds 
the keys to power. For this reason alone it should be clear 
that at least the higher grades of education are to be directly 
controlled by the rulers. But there are some additional reasons 
for this. The most important is that only ‘ the expert and . . the 
man of proven probity as Crossman puts it, which in Plato’s 
view means only the very wisest adepts, that is to say, the rulers 
themselves, can be entrusted with the final initiation of the 
future sages into the higher mysteries of wisdom. This holds, 
above all, for dialectics, i.e. the art of intellectual intuition, of 
visualizing the divine originals, the Forms or Ideas, of*unveiling 
the Great Mystery behind the common man’s everyday world of 

What are Plato’s institutional demands regarding this highest 
form of education ? They are remarkable. He demands that 
only those who are past their prime of life should be admitted. 

* When their bodily strength begins to fail, and when they are 
past the age of public and military duties, then, and only then, 
should they be permitted to enter at will the sacred field. . .’ 
namely, the field of the highest dialectical studies. Plato’s reason 
for this amazing rule is clear enough. * He is afraid of the power 
of thought. ‘ All great things are dangerous ’ is the remark 
by which he introduces the confession that he is afraid of the 
effect which philosophic thought may have upon brains which 
are not yet on the verge of old age. (All this he puts into the 
mouth of Socrates, who died in defence of his right of free discus- 
sion with the young.) But this is exactly what we should expect 
if we rememl3er that Plato’s fundamental aim was to arrest 
political change. In their youth, the members of the upper class 
shall fight. When they are too old to think independently, they 
shall become dogmatic students to be imbued with wisdom and 
authority in order to become sages themselves and to hand on 

Plato's politics 


their wisdom^ the doctrine of collectivism and authoritarianism, 
to future generations. 

It is interesting that in a later and mor.e elaborate passage 
which attempts to paint the rulers in the brightest colours, Plato 
modifies his suggestion. Now he allows the future sages to 
begin their preparatory dialectical studies at the age of thirty, 
stressing, of course, ‘ the need for great caution ' and the dangers 
of ‘ insubordination . . which corrupts so many dialecticians ' ; 
and he demands that ^ those to whom the use of arguments may 
be permitted must possess disciplined and well-balanced natures 
This alteration certainly helps to brighten the picture. But the 
fundamental tendency is the same. For, in the continuation of 
this passage, we hear that the future leaders must not be initiated 
into the higher philosophical studies — into the dialectic vision 
of the essence of the Good — before they reach, having passed 
through many tests and temptations, the age of fifty. 

This is the teaching of the Republic, It seems that the dia- 
logue Parmenides contains a similar message, for here Socrates 
is depicted as a brilliant young man who, having dabbled suc- 
cessfully in pure philosophy, gets into serious trouble when asked 
to give an account of the more subtle problems of the theory of 
ideas. He is dismissed by the old Parmenides with the admoni- 
tion that he should train himself more thoroughly in the art of 
abstract thought before venturing again into the higher field of 
philosophical studies. It looks as if we had here (among other 
things) Plato's answer — ‘ Even a Socrates was once too young 
for dialectics ’ — to his pupils who pestered him for an initiation 
which he considered premature. 

Why is it that Plato does not wish his leaders to have originality 
or initiative ? The answer, I think, is clear. He hates change 
and does not want to see that re-adjustments may become neces- 
sary, But this explanation of Plato’s attitude does not go deep 
enough. In fact, we are faced here with a fundamental difficulty 
of the leader principle. The very idea of selecting or educating 
future leaders is self-contradictory. You may solve the problem, 
perhaps, to some degree in the field of bodily excellence. Physical 
initiative and bodily courage are perhaps not so hard to ascertain. 
But the secret of intellectual excellence is the spirit of criticism ; 
it is intellectual independence. And this leads to difficulties 
which must prove insurmountable for any kind of authori- 
tarianism. The authoritarian will in general select those who 
obey, who believe, who respond to his influence. But in doing 


SO, he is bound to select mediocrities. For he excludes those who 
revolt, who doubt, who dare to resist his influence. Never can an 
authority admit that the intellectually courageous, i.e. those who 
dare to defy his authority, may be the most valuable type. Of 
course, the authorities will always remain convinced of their 
ability to detect initiative. But what they mean by this is only 
a quick grasp of their intentions, and they will remain for ever 
incapable of seeing the difference. (Here we may perhaps 
penetrate the secret of the particular difficulty of selecting capable 
military leaders. The demands of military discipline enhance 
the difficulties discussed, and the methods of military advance- 
ment are such that those who do dare to think for themselves are 
usually eliminated. Nothing is less true, as far as intellectual 
initiative is concerned, than the idea that those who are good 
in obeying will also be good in commanding ^2. Very similar 
difficulties arise in political parties : the ' Man Friday ’ of the 
party leader is seldom a capable successor.) 

We are led here, I believe, to a result of some importance, 
and to one which can be generalized. Institutions for the selec- 
tion of the outstanding can hardly be devised. Institutional 
selection may work quite well for such purposes as Plato had in 
mind, namely for arresting change. But it will never work well 
if we demand more than that, for it will always tend to eliminate 
initiative and originality, and, more generally, qualities which 
are unusual and unexpected. This is not a criticism of political 
institutionalism. It only re-affirms what has been said before, 
that we should always prepare for the worst leaders, although we 
should try, of course, to get the best. But it is a criticism of the 
tendency to burden institutions, especially educational institu- 
tions, with the impossible task of selecting the best. This should 
never be made their task. This tendency transforms our educa- 
tional system into a race-course, and turns a course of studies 
into a hurdle-race. Instead of encouraging the student to devote 
himself to his studies for the sake of studying, instead of encourag- 
ing in him a real love for his subject and for inquiry he is 
encouraged to study for the sake of his personal career ; he is led 
to acquire only such knowledge as is serviceable in getting him 
over the hurdles which he must clear for the sake of his advance- 
ment. In other words, even in the field of science, our methods 
of selection are based upon an appeal to personal ambition of a 
somewhat crude form. (It is a natural reaction to this appeal if 
the eager student is looked upon with suspicion by his colleagues.) 

Plato’s politics 


The impossible demand for an institutional selection of intel- 
lectual leaders endangers the very life not only of science, but of 

It has been said, only too truly, that Plato was the inventor 
of both our secondary schools and our universities. I do not 
know a better argument for an optimistic view of mankind, no 
better proof of their indestructible love for truth and decency, of 
their originality and stubbornness and health, than the fact that 
this devastating system of education has not utterly ruined them. 
In spite of the treachery of so many of their leaders, there are 
quite a number, old as well as young, who are decent, and 
intelligent, and devoted to their task. ‘ I sometimes wonder how 
it was that the mischief done was not more clearly perceptible,’ 
says Samuel Butler ^ and that the young men and women 
grew up as sensible and goodly as they did, in spite of the attempts 
almost deliberately made to warp and stunt their growth. Some 
doubtless received damage, from which they suffered to their 
life’s end ; but many seemed little or none the worse, and some 
almost the better. The reason would seem to be that the natural 
instinct of the lads in most cases so absolutely rebelled against 
their training, that do what the teachers might they could never 
get them to pay serious heed to it.’ 

It may be mentioned here that, in practice, Plato did not 
prove too successful as a selector of political leaders. I have in 
mind not so much the disappointing outcome of his experiment 
with Dionysius the Younger, tyrant of Syracuse, but rather the 
participation of Plato’s Academy in Dio’s successful expedition 
against Dionysius. Plato’s famous friend Dio was supported in 
this adventure by a number of members of Plato’s Academy. 
One of them was Gallippus, who became Dio’s most trusted 
comrade. After Dio had made himself tyrant of Syracuse he 
ordered Heraclides, his ally (and perhaps his rival), to be mur- 
dered. Shortly afterwards he was himself murdered by Gallippus 
who usurped the tyranny, which he lost after thirteen months. 
(He was, in turn, murdered by the Pythagorean philosopher 
Leptines.) But this event was not the only one of its kind in 
Plato’s career as a teacher. Glearchus, one of Plato’s (and of 
Isocrates’) disciples, made himself tyrant of Heraclea after hav- 
ing posed as a democratic leader. He was murdered by his 
relation, Ghion, another member of Plato’s Academy. (We can- 
not know how Ghion, whom some represent as an idealist, would 
have developed, since he was soon killed.) These and a few 


similar experiences of Plato’s — who could boast a total of at 
least nine tyrants among his one-time pupils and associates— 
throw light on the peculiar difficulties connected with the selec- 
tion of men who are to be invested with absolute power. It is 
hard to find a man whose character will not be corrupted by it. 
As Lord Acton says — all power corrupts, and absolute power 
corrupts absolutely. 

To sum up. Plato’s political programme was much more 
institutional than personalist ; he hoped to arrest political change 
by the institutional control of succession in leadership. The 
control was to be educational, based upon an authoritarian view 
of learning — upon the authority of the learned expert, and ^ the 
man of proven probity This is what Plato made of Socrates’ 
demand that a responsible politician should be a lover of truth 
and of wisdom rather than an expert, and that he was wise only 
if he knew his limitations. 


And the state will erect monuments ... to com- 
memorate them. And sacrifices will be offered to 
them as demigods, ... as men who are blessed 
by grace, and godlike. 


The contrast between the Platonic and the Socratic creed is 
even greater than I have showm so far. Plato, I have said, 
followed Socrates in his definition of the philosopher. * Whom 
do you call true philosophers ? — Those who love truth we read 
in the Republic But he himself is not quite truthful when he 
makes this statement. He does not really believe in it, for he 
bluntly declares in other places that it is one of the royal privileges 
of the sovereign to make full use of lies and deceit : ‘ It is the 
business of the rulers of the city, if it is anybody’s, to tell lies, 
deceiving both its enemies and its own citizens for the benefit 
of the city ; and no one else must touch this privilege.’ ^ 

‘ For the benefit of the city says Plato. Again we find that 
the appeal to the principle of collective utility is the ultimate 
ethical consideration. Totalitarian morality overrules every- 
thii^, even the definition, the Idea, of the philosopher. It need 
hardly be mentioned that, by the same principle of political 
expediency, the ruled are to be forced to tell the truth. ‘ If the 
ruler catches anyone else in a lie . . then he will punish him for 
introducing a practice which injures and endangers the city. . .’ ^ 
Only in this slightly unexpected sense are the Platonic rulers — 
the philosopher kings — clovers of truth. 


Plato illustrates this application of his principle of collective 
utility to the problem of truthfulness by the example of the 
physician. The example is well chosen, since Plato likes to 
visualize his political mission as one of the healer or saviour of 
the sick body of society. Apart from this, the role which he 
assigns to medicine throws light upon the totalitarian character 
of Plato’s city where state interest dominates the life of the citizen 
from the mating of his parents to his grave. Plato interprets 
medicine as a form of politics, or as he puts it himself, he ‘ regards 
Aesculapius, the god of medicine, as a politician ’ Medical 




art, he explains, must not consider the prolongation of life as its 
aim, but only the interest of the state. ‘ In all properly ruled 
communities, each man has his particular v/ork assigned to him 
in the state. This he must do, and no one has time to spend his 
life in falling ill and getting cured.’ Accordingly, the physician 
has ‘ no right to attend to a man who cannot carry out his ordinary 
duties ; for such a man is useless to himself and to the state To 
this is added the consideration that such a man might have ‘ chil- 
dren who would probably be equally sick and who also would 
become a burden to the state. (In his old age, Plato mentions 
medicine, in spite of his increased hatred of individualism, in a 
more personal vein. He complains of the doctor who treats even 
free citizens as if they were slaves, ‘ issuing his orders like a tyrant 
whose will is law, and then rushing off to the next slave-patient ’ 
and he pleads for more gentleness and patience in medical treat- 
ment, at least for those who are not slaves.) Concerning the use 
of lies and deceit, Plato urges that these are ^ useful only as a 
medicine ’ ® ; but the ruler of the state, Plato insists, must not 
behave like some of those ^ ordinary doctors ’ who have not the 
courage to administer strong medicines. The philosopher king, 
a lover of truth as a philosopher, must, as a king, be ‘ a more 
courageous man ’, since he must be determined ‘ to administer a 
great many lies and deceptions ’ — for the benefit of the ruled, 
Plato hastens to add. Which means, as we already know, and as 
we learn here again from Plato’s reference to medicine, ‘ for the 
benefit of the state (Kant remarked once in a very different 
spirit that the sentence ‘ Truthfulness is the best policy ’ might 
indeed be questionable, whilst the sentence ‘ Truthfulness is better 
than policy ’ is beyond dispute 

What kind of lies has Plato in mind when he exhorts his rulers 
to use strong medicine ? Crossman rightly emphasizes that 
Plato means ' propaganda, the technique of controlling the 
behaviour of . . the bulk of the ruled majority ’ Certainly, 
Plato had these first in his mind ; but when Crossman suggests 
that the propaganda lies were only intended for the consumption 
of the ruled, while the rulers should be a fully enlightened in- 
telligentsia, then I cannot agree. I think, rather, that Plato’s 
complete break with anything resembling Socrates’ intellectualism 
is nowhere more obvious than in the place where he twice expresses 
his hope that even the rulers themselves^ at least after a few genera- 
tions, might be induced to believe his greatest propaganda lie ; 
I mean his racialism, his Myth of Blood and Soil, known as the 



Myth of the Metals in Man and of the Earthborn. Here we see 
that Plato’s utilitarian and totalitarian principles overrule every- 
thingj even the ruler’s privilege of knowing, and of demanding 
to be told, the truth. The motive of Plato’s wish that the rulers 
themselves should believe in the propaganda lie is his hope of 
increasing its wholesome effect, i.e. of strengthening the rule of 
the master race, and ultimately, of arresting all political change. 


Plato introduces his Myth of Blood and Soil with the blunt 
admission that it is a fraud. ‘ Well then ’, says the Socrates of 
the Republic^ ' could we perhaps fabricate one of those very handy 
lies which indeed we mentioned just recently ? With the help 
of one single lordly lie we may, if we are lucky, persuade even the 
rulers themselves — but at any rate the rest of the city.’ ® It is 
interesting to note the use of the term ‘ persuade To persuade 
somebody to believe a lie means, more precisely, to mislead or to 
hoax him ; and it would be more in tune with the frank cynicism 
of the passage to translate ^ we may, if we are lucky, hoax even the 
rulers themselves But Plato uses the term ‘ persuasion ’ very 
frequently, and its occurrence here throws some light on other 
passages.' It may be taken as a warning that in similar passages 
he may have propaganda lies in his mind ; more especially where 
he advocates that the statesman should rule ‘ by means of both 
persuasion and force ’ 

After announcing his ^ lordly lie ’, Plato, instead of proceed- 
ing directly to the narration of his Myth, first develops a lengthy 
preface, somewhat similar to the lengthy preface which precedes 
his discovery of justice ; an indication, I think, of his uneasiness. 
It seems that he did not expect the proposal which follows to find 
much favour with his readers. The Myth itself introduces two 
ideas. The first is to strengthen the defence of the mother 
country ; it is the idea that the warriors of his city are autoch- 
thonous, ' born of the earth of their country ’, and ready to 
defend their country which is their mother. This old and well- 
known idea is certainly not the reason for Plato’s hesitation 
(although the wording of the dialogue cleverly suggests it). The 
second idea, however, ‘ the rest of the story ’, is the myth of 
racialism : ^ God . . has put gold into those who are capable 
of ruling, silver into the auxiliaries, and iron and copper into the 
peasants and the other producing classes.’ These metals are 
hereditary, they are racial characteristics. In this passage, in 



which Plato, hesitatingly, first introduces his racialism, he allows 
for the possibility that children may be born with an admixture 
of another metal than those of their parents ; and it must be 
admitted that he here announces the following rule : if in one of 
the lower classes ' children are born with an admixture of gold 
and silver, they shall . . be appointed guardians, and . • auxili- 
aries \ But this concession is rescinded in later passages of the 
Republic (and also in the Laws)^ especially in the story of the Fall 
of Man and of the Number partially quoted in chapter 5 above. 
From this passage we learn that any admixture of one of the base 
metals must be excluded from the higher classes. The possibility 
of admixtures and corresponding changes in status therefore only 
.means that nobly born but degenerate children may be pushed 
down, and not that any of the base born may be lifted up. The 
way in which any mixing of metals must lead to destruction is 
described in the concluding passage of the story of the Fall of 
Man : ^ Iron will mingle with silver and bronze with gold, and 
from this mixture variation will be born and absurd irregularity ; 
and whenever these are born they will beget struggle and hostility. 
And this is how we must describe the ancestry and birth of 
Dissension, wherever she arises * It is in this light that we 
must consider that the Myth of the Earthborn concludes with 
the cynical fabrication of a prophecy by a fictitious oracle ‘ that 
the city must perish when guarded by iron and copper ’ 
Plato’s reluctance to proffer his racialism at once in its more 
radical form indicates, I suppose, that he knew how much it was 
opposed to the democratic and humanitarian tendencies of his 

If we consider Plato’s blunt admission that his Myth of Blood 
and Soil is a propaganda lie, then the attitude of the commentators 
towards the Myth is somewhat puzzling. Adam, for instance, 
writes : ^ Without it, the present sketch of a state would be 
incomplete. We require some guarantee for the permanence of 
the city . . ; and nothing could be more in keeping with the 
prevailing moral and religious spirit Plato’s . . education than 
that he should find that guarantee in faith rather than in reason^ 

I agree (though this is not quite what Adam meant) that nothing 
is more in keeping with Plato’s totalitarian morality than his 
advocacy of propaganda lies. But I do not quite understand 
how the religious and idealistic commentator can declare, by 
implication, that religion and faith are on the level of an oppor- 
tunist lie. As a matter of fact, Adam’s comment is reminiscent 

142 • Plato’s politics 

of Hobbes’ conventionalism, of the view that the tenets of religion, 
although not true, are a most expedient and indispensable political 
device. And this consideration shows us that Plato, after all, was 
more of a conventionalist than one might think. He does not 
even stop short of establishing a religious faith ^ by convention ’ 
(we must credit him with the frankness of his admission that it is 
only a fabrication), while the reputed conventionalist Protagoras 
at least believed that the laws, which are our making, are made 
with the help of divine inspiration. It is hard to understand why 
those of Plato’s commentators who praise him for fighting 
against the subversive conventionalism of the Sophists, and for 
establishing a spiritual naturalism ultimately based on religion, 
fail to censure him for making a convention, or rather an inven- 
tion, the ultimate basis of religion. In fact, Plato’s attitude 
towards religion as revealed by his ‘ inspired lie ’ is practically 
identical with that of Gritias, his beloved uncle, the brilliant 
leader of the Thirty Tyrants who established an inglorious blood- 
regime in Athens after the Peloponnesian war. Gritias, a poet, 
was the first to glorify propaganda lies, whose invention he 
described in forceful verses eulogizing the wise and cunning man 
who fabricated religion, in order to ‘ persuade ’ the people, i.e. 
to threaten them into submission. 

‘ Then came, it seems, that wise and cunning man, 

The first inventor of the Tear of gods. . . 

He framed a tale, a most alluring doctrine, 

Goncealing truth by veils of lying lore. 

He told of the abode of a^vful gods, 

Up in revolving vaults, whence thunder roars 
And lightning’s fearful flashes blind the eye. . . 

He thus encircled men by bonds of fear ; 

Surrounding them by gods in fair abodes. 

He charmed them by his spells, and daunted them — 

And lawlessness turned into law and order.’ 

In Gritias’ view, religion is nothing but the lordly lie of a great 
and clever statesman. Plato’s views are strikingly similar, both 
in the introduction of the Myth in the Republic (where he bluntly 
admits that the Myth is a lie) and in the Laws where he says that 
the installation of rites and of gods is ' a matter for a great 
thinker ’ — But is this the whole truth about Plato’s religious 
attitude ? Was he nothing but an opportunist in this field, and 
was the very different spirit of his earlier works merely Socratic ? 


There is of course no way of deciding this question with certainty, 
though I feel, intuitively, that there may sometimes be a more 
genuine religious feeling expressed even in the later works. But 
I believe that wherever Plato considers religious matters in their 
relation to politics, his political opportunism sweeps all other 
feelings aside. Thus Plato demands, in the Laws, the severest 
punishment even for honest and honourable people if their 
opinions concerning the gods deviate from those held by the 
state. Their souls are to be treated by a Nocturnal Council of 
inquisitors and if they do not recant or if they repeat the 
offence, the charge of impiety means death. Has he forgotten 
that Socrates had fallen a victim to that very charge? 

That it is mainly state interest which inspires these demands, 
rather than interest in the religious faith as such, is indicated 
by Plato’s central religious doctrine. The gods, he teaches in 
the Laws, punish severely all those on the wrong side in the 
conflict between good and evil, a conflict which is explained as 
that between collectivism and individualism And the gods, 
he insists, take an active interest in men, they are not merely 
spectators. It is impossible to appease them. Neither through 
prayers nor through sacrifices can they be moved to abstain from 
punishment The political interest behind this teaching is 
clear, and it is made even clearer by Plato’s demand that the 
state must suppress all doubt about any part of this politico- 
religious dogma, and especially about the doctrine that the gods 
never abstain from punishment. 

Plato’s opportunism and his theory of lies makes it, of course, 
difficult to interpret what he says. How far did he believe in his 
theory of justice ? How far did he believe in the truth of the 
religious doctrines he preached ? Was he perhaps himself an 
atheist, in spite of his demand for the punishment of other (lesser) 
atheists ? Although we cannot hope to answer any of these 
questions definitely, it is, I believe, difficult, and methodologically 
unsound, not to give Plato at least the benefit of the doubt. 
And especially the fundamental sincerity of his belief that there 
is an urgent need to arrest all change can, I think, hardly be 
questioned. (I shall return to this in chapter lo.) On the other 
hand, we cannot doubt that Plato subjects the Socratic love of 
truth to the more fundamental principle that the rule of the 
master class must be strengthened. 

It is interesting, however, to note that Plato’s theory of truth 
is slightly less radical than his theory of justice. Justice, we have 

Plato’s politics 


seen, is defined, practically, as that which serves the interest of 
his totalitarian state. It would have been possible, of course, to 
define the concept of truth in the same utilitarian or pragmatist 
fashion. The Myth is true, Plato could have said, since any- 
thing that serves the interest of my state must be believed and 
therefore must be called ‘ true ’ ; and there must be no other 
criterion of truth. In theory, an analogous step has actually been 
taken by the pragmatist successors of Hegel ; in practice, it has 
been taken by Hegel himself and his racialist successors. But 
Plato retained enough of the Socratic spirit to admit candidly 
that he was lying. The step taken by the school of Hegel was 
one that could never have occurred, I think, to any companion 
of Socrates 


So much for the role played by the Idea of Truth in Plato’s 
best state. But apart from Justice and Truth, we have still to 
consider some further Ideas, such as Goodness, Beauty, and 
Happiness, if we wish to remove the objections, raised in chapter 6, 
against our interpretation of Plato’s political programme as purely 
totalitarian, and as based on historicism. An approach to the 
discussion of these Ideas, and also to that of Wisdom, which has 
been partly discussed in the last chapter, can be made by con- 
sidering the somewhat negative result reached by our discussion 
of the Idea of Truth. For this result raises a new problem : 
Why does Plato demand that the philosophers should be kings 
or the kings philosophers, if he defines the philosopher as a lover 
of truth, insisting, on the other hand, that the king must be 
‘ more courageous ’, and use lies ? 

The only reply to this question is, of course, thal; Plato has, 
in fact, something very different in mind when he uses the term 
' philosopher ’. And indeed, we have seen in the last chapter that 
his philosopher is not the devoted seeker for wisdom, but its proud 
possessor. He is a learned man, a sage. What Plato demands, 
therefore, is the rule of learnedness — sophocracy^ if I may so call it. 
In order to understand this demand, w^e must try to find what 
kind of functions make it desirable that the ruler of Plato’s state 
should be a possessor of knowledge, a ‘ fully qualified philosopher ’, 
as Plato says. The functions to be considered can be divided into 
two main groups, namely those connected with iht foundation of 
the state, and those connected with its preservation. 




The first and the ‘most important function of the philosopher 
king is that of the city’s founder and lawgiver. It is clear why 
Plato needs a philosopher for this task. If the state is to be stable, 
then it must be a true copy of the divine Form or Idea of the State. 
But only a philosopher who is fully proficient in the highest of 
sciences, in dialectics, is able to see, and to copy, the heavenly 
Original. This point receives much emphasis in the part of the 
Republic in which Plato develops his arguments for the sovereignty 
of the philosophers Philosophers ‘ love to see the truth 
and a real lover always loves to see the whole, not merely the 
parts. Thus he does not love, as ordinary people do, sensible 
things and their ^ beautiful sounds and colours and shapes ^ but 
he wants ^ to see, and to admire the real nature of beauty ’ — the 
Form or Idea of Beauty. In this way^ Plato gives the term philosopher 
a new meanings that of a lover and a seer of the divine world of 
Forms or Ideas. As such, the philosopher is the rhan who may 
become the founder of a virtuous city « The philosopher who 
has communion with the divine ’ may be ‘ overwhelmed by the 
urge to realize . . his heavenly vision of the ideal city and of 
its ideal citizens. He is like a draughtsman or a painter who has 
‘ the divine as his model ’. Only true philosophers can ‘ sketch 
the ground-plan of the city ’, for they alone can see the original, 
and can copy it, by ‘ letting their eyes wander to and fro, from the 
model to the picture, and back from the picture to the model 

As ^ a painter of constitutions ’ philosopher must be 

helped by the light of goodness and of wisdom. A few remarks 
will be added concerning these two ideas, and their significance for 
the philosopher in his function as a founder of the city. 

Plato’s Idea of the Good is the highest in the hierarchy of Forms. 
It is the sun of the divine world of Forms or Ideas, which not only 
sheds light on all the other members, but is the source of their 
existence It is also the source or cause of all knowledge and 
all truth The power of seeing, of appreciating, of knowing 
the Good is thus indispensable to the dialectician. Since it is 
the sun and the source of light in the world of Forms, it enables 
,the philosopher-painter to discern his objects. Its functio is 
therefore of the greatest importance for the founder of the city. 
But this purely formal information is all we get, Plato’s Idea of 
the Good nowhere plays a more direct ethical or political role ; 
never do we hear which deeds are good, or produce good, apart 

Plato’s politics 


from the well-known collectivist moral code whose precepts are 
introduced without recourse to the Idea of Good. Remarks that 
the Good is the aim, that it is desired by every man do not 
enrich our information. This empty formalism is still more 
marked in the Philebus, where the Good is identified with the 
Idea of ^ measure ’ or " mean And when I read the report 
that Plato, in his famous lecture ^ On the Good disappointed 
an uneducated audience by defining the Good as ' the class of 
the determinate conceived as a unity ’, then my sympathy is 
with the audience. In the Republic^ Plato says frankly that he 
cannot explain what he means by ' the Good The only 
practical suggestion we ever get is the one mentioned at the 
beginning of chapter 4 — that good is everything that preserves, 
and evil everything that leads to corruption or degeneration. 

Good ’ does not, however, seem to be here the Idea of Good, 
but rather a property of things which makes them resemble the 
ideas.) Good is, accordingly, an unchanging, an arrested state 
of things ; it is the state of things at rest. 

This does not seem to carry us very far beyond Plato’s political 
totalitarianism ; and the analysis of Plato’s Idea of Wisdom leads 
to equally disappointing results. Wisdom, as we have seen, does 
not mean to Plato the Socratic insight into one’s own limitations ; 
nor does it mean what most of us would expect, a warm interest 
in, and a helpful understanding of, humanity and human affairs. 
Plato’s wise men, highly preoccupied with the problems of a 
superior world, ^ have no time to look down at the affairs of 
men . . ; they look upon, and hold fast to, the ordered and the 
measured It is the right kind of learning that makes a man 
wise : ‘ Philosophic natures are lovers of that kind of learning 
which reveals to them a reality that exists for ever and is not 
harassed by generation and degeneration.’ It does not seem 
that Plato’s treatment of wisdom can carry us beyond the ideal 
of arresting change. 


Although the analysis of the functions of the city’s founder 
has not revealed any new ethical elements in Plato’s doctrine, it 
has shown that there is a definite reason why the founder of the 
city must be a philosopher. But this does not fully justify the 
demand for the permanent sovereignty of the philosopher. It 
only explains why the philosopher must be the first lawgiver, but 
not why he is needed as the permanent ruler, especially since 



none of the later rulers must introduce any change. For a full 
justification of the demand that the philosophers should rulcj we 
must therefore proceed to analyse the tasks connected with the 
city’s preservation. 

We know from Plato’s sociological theories that the state, 
once established, will continue to be stable as long as there is 
no split in the unity of the master class. The bringing up of 
that class is, therefore, the great preserving function of the 
sovereign, and a function which must continue as long as the 
state exists. How far does it justify the demand that a philosopher 
must rule ? To answer this question, we distinguish again, 
within this function, between two different activities : the 
supervision of education, and the supervision of eugenic breeding. 

Why should the director of education be a philosopher? 
Why is it not sufficient, once the state and its educational system 
are established, to put an experienced general, a soldier-king, in 
charge of it ? The answer that the educational system must 
provide not only soldiers but philosophers, and therefore needs 
philosophers as well as soldiers as supervisors, is obviously 
unsatisfactory ; for if no philosophers were needed as directors 
of education and as permanent rulers, then there would be no 
need for the educational system to produce new ones. The 
requirements of the educational system cannot as such justify 
the need for philosophers in Plato’s state, or the postulate that 
the rulers must be philosophers. This would be different, of 
course, if Plato’s education had an individualistic aim, apart 
from its aim to serve the interest of the state ; for example, the 
aim to develop philosophical faculties for their own sake. But 
when we see, as we did in the preceding chapter, how frightened 
Plato was of permitting anything like independent thought ; 
and when we now see that the ultimate theoretical aim of this 
philosophic education was merely a ‘ Knowledge of the Idea of 
the Good ’ which is incapable of giving an articulate account 
of this Idea, then we begin to realize that this cannot be the 
explanation. And this impression is strengthened if we remember 
chapter 4, where we have seen that Plato also demanded restric- 
tions in the Athenian ^ musical ’ education. The great importance 
which Plato attaches to a philosophical education of the rulers 
must be explained by other reasons — by reasons which must be 
purely political. 

The main reason I can see is the need for increasing to the 
utmost the authority of the rulers. If the education of the 



auxiliaries functions properly, there will be plenty of good 
soldiers. Outstanding military faculties may therefore be insuffi- 
cient to establish an unchallenged and unchallengeable authority. 
This must be based on higher claims. Plato bases it upon the 
claims of supernatural, mystical powers which he develops in his 
leaders. They are not like other men. They belong to another 
world, they communicate with the divine. Thus the philosopher 
king seems to be, partly, a copy of a tribal priest-king, an institu- 
tion which we have mentioned in connection with Heraclitus. 
(The institution of tribal priest-kings or medicine-men or shamans 
seems also to have influenced the old Pythagorean sect, with 
their surprisingly naive tribal taboos. Apparently, most of these 
were dropped even before Plato. But the claim of the Pytha- 
goreans to a supernatural basis of their authority remained.) 
Thus Plato's philosophical education has a definite political func- 
tion. It puts a mark on the rulers^ and it establishes a barrier between 
the rulers and the ruled, (This has remained a major function of 
* higher ' education down to our own time.) Platonic wisdom 
is acquired largely for the sake of establishing a permanent 
political class rule. It can be described as political ^ medicine 
giving mystic powers to its possessors, the medicine- men. 

But this cannot be the full answer to our question of the 
functions of the philosopher in the state. It means, rather, that 
the question why a philosopher is needed has only been shifted, 
and that we w^ould have now to raise the analogous question of 
the practical political functions of the shaman or the medicine- 
man. Plato must have had some definite aim when he devised 
his specialized philosophic training. We must look for a 
permanent function of the ruler, analogous to the temporary 
function of the lawgiver. The only hope of discovering such a 
function seems to be in the field of breeding the master race. 


The best way to find out why a philosopher is needed as a 
permanent ruler is to ask the question : What happens, accord- 
ing to Plato, to a state which is not permanently ruled by a 
philosopher? Plato has given a clear answer to this question. 
If the guardians of the state, even of a very perfect one, are 
unaware of Pythagorean lore and of the Platonic Number, then 
the race of the guardians, and with it the state, must degenerate. 

Racialism thus takes up a more central part in Plato’s political 
programme than one would expect at first sight. Just as the 



Platonic racial or nuptial Number provides the setting for his 
descriptive sociology, ‘ the setting in which Plato’s Philosophy of 
History is framed ’ (as Adam puts it), so it also provides the 
setting of Plato’s political demand for the sovereignty of the 
philosophers. After what has been said in chapter 4 about the 
graziers’ or cattle breeders’ background of Plato’s state, we are 
perhaps not quite unprepared to find that his king is a breeder 
king. But it may still surprise son;e that his philosopher turns out 
to be a philosophic breeder. The need for scientific, for mathe- 
matico-dialectical and philosophical breeding is not the least of 
the arguments behind the claim for the sovereignty of the 

It has been shown in chapter 4 how the problem of obtaining 
a pure breed of human watch-dogs is emphasized and elaborated 
in the earlier parts of the Republic. But so far we have not met 
with any plausible reason why only a genuine and fully qualified 
philosopher should be a proficient and successful political breeder. 
And yet, as every breeder of dogs or horses or birds knows, 
rational breeding is impossible without a pattern, an aim to guide 
him in his efforts, an ideal which he may try to approach by the 
methods of mating and of selecting. Without such a standard, 
he could never decide which offspring is ‘ good enough ’ ; he 
could never speak of the difference between * good offspring ’ 
and ‘ bad offspring ’. But this standard corresponds exactly to 
a Platonic Idea of the race which he intends to breed. 

Just as only the true philosopher, the dialectician, can see, 
according to Plato, the divine original of the city, so it is only 
the dialectician who can see that other divine original — the Form 
or Idea of Man. Only he is capable of copying this model, of 
calling it down from Heaven to Earth and of realizing it here. 
It is a kingly Idea, this Idea of Man. It does not, as some have 
thought, represent what is common to all men ; it is not the 
universal concept ‘ man ’. It is, rather, the godlike original of 
man, an unchanging superman ; it is a super-Greek, and a 
super-master. The philosopher must try to realize on earth 
what Plato describes as the race of ‘ the most constant, the most 
virile, and, within the limits of possibilities, the most beautifully 
formed men . . : nobly born, and of awe-inspiring character ’ 

It is to be a race of men and women who are ‘ godlike if not 
divine . . sculptured in perfect beauty ’ — a lordly race, 

destined by nature to kingship and mastery. 

We see that the two fundamental functions of the philosopher 

O.S.LE. — ^VOL. I . F 

Plato’s politics 


king are analogous : he has to copy the divine original of the city, 
and he has to copy the divine original of man. He is the only 
one who is able, and who has the urge, ' to realize, in the individual 
as well as in the city, his heavenly vision ’ 

Now we can understand why Plato drops his first hint that a 
more than ordinary excellence is needed in his rulers in the same 
place where he first claims that the principles of animal breeding 
must be applied to the race of men. We are, he says, most 
careful in breeding animals. ' If you did not breed them in this 
way, don’t you think that the race of your birds or your dogs 
would quickly degenerate ? ’ When inferring from this that man 
must be bred in the same careful way, Socrates ’ exclaims : 
‘ Good heavens ! . . What surpassing excellence we shall have 
to demand from our rulers, if the same principles apply to the 
race of men ! ’ This exclamation is significant ; it is one of 
the first hints that the rulers may constitute a class of ^ surpassing 
excellence ’ with status and training of their own ; and it thus 
prepares us for the demand that they ought to be philosophers. 
But the passage is even more significant in so far as it directly 
leads to Plato’s demand that it must be the duty of the rulers, 
as doctors of the race of men, to administer lies and deception. 
Lies are necessary, Plato asserts, ‘ if your herd is to reach 
highest perfection ’ ; for this needs ‘ arrangements that must 
be kept secret from all but the rulers, if we wish to keep the herd 
of guardians really free from disunion Indeed, the appeal 
(quoted above) to the rulers for more courage in administering 
lies as a medicine is made in this connection ; it prepares the 
reader for the next demand, considered by Plato as particularly 
important. He decrees that the rulers should fabricate, for 
the purpose of mating the young auxiliaries, * an ingenious system 
of balloting, so that the persons who have been disappointed . . 
may blame their bad luck, and not the rulers ’, who are, secretly, 
to engineer the ballot. And immediately after this despicable 
advice for dodging the admission of responsibility (by putting 
it into the mouth of Socrates, Plato libels his great teacher), 
‘ Socrates ’ makes a suggestion which is soon taken up and 
elaborated by Glaucon and which we may therefore call the 
Glauconic Edict I mean the brutal law which imposes on every- 
body of either sex the duty of submitting, for the duration of a 
war, to the wishes of the brave : ‘ As long as the war lasts, . . 

nobody may say No ” to him. Accordingly, if a soldier wishes 
to make love to anybody, whether male or female, this law will 


make him more eager to carry off the price of valour/ The 
state, it is carefully pointed out, will thereby obtain two distinct 
benefits — more heroes, owing to the incitement, and again more 
heroes, owing to the increased numbers of children from heroes. 
(The latter benefit, as the most important one from the point 
of view of a long-term racial policy, is put into the mouth of 
‘ Socrates *•) 


No special philosophical training is required for this kind of 
breeding. Philosophical breeding, however, plays its main part 
in counteracting the dangers of degeneration. In order to fight 
these dangers, a fully qualified philosopher is needed, i.e. one 
who is trained in pure mathematics (including solid geometry), 
pure astronomy, pure harmonics, and, the crowning achievement 
of ail, in dialectics. Only he who knows the secrets of mathe- 
matical eugenics, of the Platonic Number, can bring back to 
man, and preserve for him, the happiness enjoyed before the 
Fall All this should be borne in mind when, after the 
announcement of the Glauconic Edict (and after an interlude 
dealing with the natural distinction between Greeks and 
Barbarians, corresponding, according to Plato, to that between 
masters and slaves), the doctrine is enunciated which Plato 
carefully marks as his central and most sensational political 
demand — the sovereignty of the philosopher king. This demand 
alone, he teaches, can put an end to the evils of social life ; to 
the evil rampant in states, i.e. political instability^ as well as to its 
more hidden cause, the evil rampant in the members of the race 
of men, i.e. racial degeneration. This is the passage.^^ 

‘ Well,’ says Socrates, ‘ I am now about to dive into that topic 
which I compared before to the greatest wave of all. Yet I must 
speak, even though I foresee that this will bring upon me a deluge 
of laughter. Indeed, I can see it now, this very wave, breaking 
over my head into an uproar of laughter and defamation . / 
— ‘ Out with the story ! ’ says Glaucon. ^ Unless,’ says Socrates, 

‘ unless, in their cities, philosophers are vested with the might of 
kings, or those now called kings and oligarchs become genuine 
and fuUy qualified philosophers ; and unless these two, political 
might and philosophy, are fused (while the many who nowadays 
follow their natural inclination for only one of these two are 
suppressed by force), unless this happens, my dear Glaucon, there 
can be no rest ; and the evil will not cease to be rampant in 



the cities — ^nor, I believe, in the race of men/ (To which Kant 
wisely replied : ‘ That kings should become philosophers, or 
philosophers kings, is not likely to happen ; nor would it be 
desirable, since the possession of power invariably debases the 
free judgement of reason. It is, however, indispensable that a 
king — or a kingly, i.e. self-ruling, people — should not suppress 
philosophers but leave them the right of public utterance/ 

This important Platonic passage has been quite appropriately 
described as the key to the whole work. Its last words, ' nor, 
I believe, in the race of men ’, are, I think, an afterthought of 
comparatively minor importance in this place. It is, however, 
necessary to comment upon them, since the habit of idealizing 
Plato has led to the interpretation that Plato speaks here about 
‘ humanity extending his promise of salvation from the scope 
of the cities to that of ‘ mankind as a whole ^ It must be said, 
in this connection, that the ethical category of ‘ humanity ’ as 
something that transcends the distinction of nations, rages, and 
classes, is entirely foreign to Plato. In fact, we have sufficient 
evidence of Plato’s hostility towards the equalitarian creed, a 
hostility which is seen in his attitude towards Antisthenes 
an old disciple and friend of Socrates, Antisthenes also belonged 
to the school of Gorgias, like Alcidamas and Lycophron, whose 
equalitarian theories he seems to have extended into the doctrine 
of the brotherhood of all men, and of the universal empire of 
men This creed is attacked in the Republic by correlating the 
natural inequality of Greeks and Barbarians to that of masters 
and slaves ; and it so happens that this attack is launched 
immediately before the key passage we are here considering. For 
these and other reasons it seems safe to assume that Plato, 
when speaking of the evil rampant in the race of men, alluded to 
a theory with which his readers would be sufficiently acquainted 
at this place, namely, to his theory that the welfare of the state 
depends, ultimately, upon the ^ nature ’ of the individual members 
of the ruling class ; and that their nature, and the nature of their 
race, or offspring, is threatened, in turn, by the evils of an indivi- 
dualistic education, and, more important still, by racial degenera- 
tion. Plato’s remark, with its clear allusion to the opposition 
between divine rest and the evil of change and decay, foreshadows 
the story of the Number and the Fall of Man 

It is very appropria.te that Plato should allude to his racial- 
ism in this key passage in which he enunciates his most important 
political demand. For without the * genuine and fully qualified 



philosopher trained in all those sciences which are prerequisite 
to eugenics, the state is lost. In his story of the Number and the 
Fall of Man, Plato tells us that one of the first and fatal sins of 
omission committed by the degenerate guardians will be their 
loss of interest in eugenics, in watching and testing the purity 
of the race : * Hence rulers will be ordained who are altogether 
unfit for their task as guardians ; namely, to watch, and to test, 
the metals in the races (which are Hesiod’s races as well as yours), 
gold and silver and bronze and iron.’ 

It is ignorance of the mysterious nuptial Number which leads 
to all that. But the Number was undoubtedly Plato’s own 
invention- (It presupposes pure harmonics, which in turn 
presupposes solid geometry, a new science at the time when the 
Republic was written.) Thus we see that nobody but Plato him- 
self knew the secret of, and held the key to, true guardianship. 
But this can mean only one thing. The philosopher king is Plato 
himself, and the Republic is Plato’s own claim for kingly power — 
to the power which he thought his due, uniting in himself, as 
he did, both the claims of the philosopher and of the descendant 
and legitimate heir of Codrus the martyr, the last of Athens’ 
kings, who, according to Plato, had sacrificed himself ‘ in order 
to preserve the kingdom for his children 


Once this conclusion has been reached, many things which 
otherwise would remain unrelated become connected and clear. 
It can hardly be doubted, for instance, that Plato’s work, full of 
allusions as it is to contemporary problems and characters, was 
meant by its author not so much as a theoretical treatise, but as a 
topical political manifesto. ‘ We do Plato the gravest of wrongs 
says A. E. Taylor, " if we forget that the Republic is no mere 
collection of theoretical discussions about government . . but a 
serious project of practical reform put forward by an Athenian 
. . , set on fire, like Shelley, with a passion for reforming the 
world This is undoubtedly true, and we could have 

concluded from this consideration alone that, in describing his 
philosopher kings, Plato must have thought of some of the con- 
temporary philosophers. But in the days when the Republic was 
written, there were in Athens only three outstanding men who 
might have claimed to be philosophers : Antisthenes, Isocrates, 
and Plato himself. If we approach the Republic with this in mind, 
we find at once that, in the discussion of the characteristics of 

Plato’s politics 


the philosopher kings, there is a lengthy passage which is clearly 
marked out by Plato as containing personal allusions. It begins 
with an unmistakable allusion to a popular character, namely 
Alcibiades, and ends by openly mentioning a name (that of 
Theages), and with a reference of ‘ Socrates ’ to himself®^. Its 
upshot is that only very few can be described as true philosophers, 
eligible for the post of philosopher king. The nobly born 
Alcibiades, who was of the right type, deserted philosophy, in 
spite of Socrates’ attempts to save him. Deserted and defenceless, 
philosophy was claimed by unworthy suitors. Ultimately, ‘ there 
is left only a handful of men who are worthy of being associated 
with philosophy From the point of view we have reached, 
we would have to expect that the ‘ unworthy suitors ’ are 
Antisthenes and Isocrates and their school (and that they are 
the same people whom Plato demands to have ^ suppressed by 
force’, as he says in the key-passage of the philosopher king). 
And, indeed, there is some independent evidence corroborating 
this expectation Similarly, we should expect that the ‘ handful 
of men who are worthy ’ includes Plato and, perhaps, some of his 
friends (possibly Dio) ; and, indeed, a continuation of this passage 
leaves little doubt that Plato speaks here of himself : ‘ He who 
belongs to this small band . . can see the madness of the many, 
and the general corruption of all public affairs. The philosopher 
• . is like a man in a cage of wild beasts. He will not share the 
injustice of the many, but his power does not suffice for continuing 
his fight alone, surrounded as he is by a world of savages. He 
would be killed before he could do any good, to his city or to his 
friends. . . Having duly considered aU these points, he will hold 
his peace, and confine his efforts to his own work . The 

strong resentment expressed in these sour and most un-Socratic 
words marks them clearly as Plato’s own. For a full apprecia- 
tion, however, of this personal confession, it must be compared 
with the following : ‘ It is not in accordance with nature that the 
skilled navigator should beg the unskilled sailors to accept his 
command ; nor that the wise man should wait at the doors of 
the rich. . . But the true and natural procedure is that the 
sick, whether rich or poor, should hasten to the doctor’s door. 
Likewise should those who need to be ruled besiege the door of 
him who can rule ; and never should a ruler beg them to accept 
his rule, if he is any good at all.’ Who can miss the sound of 
an immense personal pride in this passage? Here am I, says 
Plato, your natural ruler, the philosopher king who knows how 


to rule. If you want me, you must come to me, and if you insist, I 
may become your ruler* But I shall not come begging to you* 

Did he believe that they would come? Like many great 
works of literature, the Republic shows traces that its author 
experienced exhilarating and extravagant hopes of success 
alternating with periods of despair. Sometimes, at least, Plato 
hoped that they would come ; that the success of his work, the 
fame of his wisdom, would bring them along. Then again, he 
felt that they would only be incited to furious attacks ; that all 
he would bring upon himself was * an uproar of laughter and 
defamation' — perhaps even death. 

Was he ambitious ? He was reaching for the stars — ^for 
god-likeness* I sometimes wonder whether part of the enthusiasm 
for Plato is not due to the fact that he gave expression to many 
secret dreams Even where he argues against ambition, we 
cannot but feel that he is inspired by it. The philosopher, he 
assures us is not ambitious ; although * destined to rule, he 
is the least e^ger for it But the reason given is — that his status 
is too high. He who has had communion with the divine may 
descend from his heights to the mortals below, sacrificing himself 
for the sake of the interest of the state. He is not eager ; but as 
a natural ruler and saviour, he is ready to come. The poor 
mortals need him. Without him the state must perish, for he 
alone knows the secret of how to preserve it — the secret of arrest- 
ing degeneration. . . 

I think we must face the fact that behind the sovereignty of 
the philosopher king stands the quest for power. The beautiful 
portrait of the sovereign is a self-portrait. When we have 
recovered from the shock of this finding, we may look anew 
at the awe-inspiring portrait ; and if we can fortify ourselves with 
a small dose of Socrates' irony then we may cease to find it 
so terrifying. We may begin to discern its human, indeed, its 
only too human features. We may even begin to feel a little 
sorry for Plato, who had to be satisfied with establishing the first 
professorship, instead of the first kingship, of philosophy ; who 
could never realize his dream, the kingly Idea which he had 
formed after his own image. Fortified by our dose of irony, we 
may even find, in Plato's story, a melancholy resemblance to 
that innocent and unconscious little satire on Platonism, the story 
of the Ugly Dachshund, of Tono, the Great Dane, who forms his 
kingly Idea of ‘ Great Dog ' after his own image (but who happily 
finds in the end that he is Great Dog himself) 

Plato’s politics 


What a monument of human smallness is this idea of the 
philosopher king. What a contrast between it and the simplicity 
and humaneness of Socrates, who warned the statesman against 
the danger of being dazzled by his own power, excellence, and 
wisdom, and who tried to teach him what matters most — that 
we are all frail human beings. What a decline from this world 
of irony and reason and truthfulness down to Plato’s kingdom 
of the sage whose magical powers raise him high above ordinary 
men ; although not quite high enough to forgo the use of lies, 
or to neglect the sorry trade of every shaman — the selling of spells, 
of breeding spells, in exchange for power over his fellow- men. 


‘ Everything has got to be smashed to start with. 
Our whole damned civilization has got to go, before 
we can bring any decency into the world.’ 

‘ Mourlan in Du Card’s Les Thibaults. 

Inherent in Plato’s programme there is a certain approach 
towards politics which, I believe, is most dangerous. Its analysis 
is of great practical importance from the point of view of rational 
social engineering. The Platonic approach I have in mind can 
be described as that of Utopian engineering, as opposed to another 
kind of social engineering which I consider as the only rational 
one, and which may be described by the name of piecemeal 
engineering. The Utopian approach is the more dangerous as 
it may seem to be the obvious alternative to an out-and-out 
historicism — to a radically historicist approach which implies 
that we cannot alter the course of history ; at the same time, it 
appears to be a necessary complement to a less radical historicism, 
like that of Plato, which permits human interference. 

The Utopian approach may be described as follows. Any 
rational action must have a certain aim. It is rational in the 
same degree as it pursues its aim consciously and consistently, 
and as it determines its means according to this end. To choose 
the end is therefore the first thing we have to do if we wish to act 
rationally ; and we must be careful to determine our real or 
ultimate ends, from which we must distinguish clearly those 
intermediate or partial ends which actually are only means, or 
steps on the way, to the ultimate end. If we neglect this dis- 
tinction, then we must also neglect to ask whether these partial 
ends are likely to promote the ultimate end, and accordingly, 
we must fail to act rationally. These principles, if applied to the 
realm of political activity, demand that we must determine our 
ultimate political aim, or the Ideal State, before taking*- any 
practical action. Only when this ultimate aim is determined, 
in rough outline at least, only when we are in possession of 
something like a blueprint of the society at which we aim, only 
then can we begin to consider the best ways and means for its 
realization, and to draw up a plan for practical action. These 


Plato’s politics 


are the necessary preliminaries of any practical political move 
that can be called rational, and especially of social engineering. 

This, in brief, is the methodological approach which I call 
Utopian engineering It is convincing and attractive. In fact, 
it is just the kind of methodological approach to attract all those 
who are either unaffected by historicist prejudices or reacting 
against them. This makes it only the more dangerous, and its 
criticism the more imperative. 

Before proceeding to criticize Utopian engineering in detail, I 
wish to outline another approach to social engineering, namely, 
that of piecemeal engineering. It is an approach which I thiny 
to be methodologically sound. The politician who adopts this 
method may or may not have a blueprint of society before his 
mind, he may or may not hope that mankind will one day 
realize an ideal state, and achieve happiness and perfection on 
earth. But he will be aware that perfection, if at all attainable, 
is far distant, and that every generation of men, and therefore 
also the living, have a claim ; perhaps not so much a claim to be 
made happy, for there are no institutional means of making a 
man happy, but a claim not to be made unhappy, where it can 
be avoided. They have a claim to be given all possible help, if 
they suffer. The piecemeal engineer will, accordingly, adopt 
the method of searching for, and fighting against, the greatest 
and most urgent evils of society, rather than searching for, and 
fighting for, its greatest ultimate good 2. This difference is far 
from being merely verbal. In fact, it is most important. It is 
the difference between a reasonable method of improving the 
lot of man, and a method which, if really tried, may easily lead to 
an intolerable increase in human suffering. It is the difference 
between a method which can be applied at any moment, and a 
method whose advocacy may easily become a means of continually 
postponing action until a later date, when conditions are more 
favourable. And it is also the difference between the only 
method of improving matters which has so far been really success- 
ful, at any time, and in any place (Russia included, as will be 
seen), and a method which, wherever it has been tried, has led 
only to the use of violence in place of reason, and if not to its 
own abandonment, at any rate to that of its original blueprint. 

In favom of his method, the piecemeal engineer can claim that 
a systematic fight against suffering and injustice and war is more 
likely to be supported by the approval and agreement of a great 
number of people than the fight for the establishment of some 


ideal. The existence of social evils, that is to say, of social 
conditions under which many men are suffering, can be 
comparatively well established. Those who suffer can judge for 
themselves, and the others can hardly deny that they would not 
like to change places. It is infinitely more difficult to reason 
about an ideal society. Social life is so complicated that few 
men, or none at all, could judge a blueprint for social engineering 
on the grand scale ; whether it be practicable ; whether it 
would result in a real improvement ; what kind of suffering it 
may involve ; and what may be the means for its realization. 
As opposed to this, blueprints for piecemeal engineering are 
comparatively simple. They are blueprints for single institutions, 
for health and unemployed insurance, for instance, or arbitration 
courts, or anti-depression budgeting \ or educational reform. If 
they go wrong, the damage is not very great, and a re-adjustment 
not very difficult. ' They are less risky, and for this very reason 
less controversial. But if it is easier to reach a reasonable agree- 
ment about existing evils and the means of combating them than 
it is about an ideal good and the means of its realization, then 
there is also more hope that by using the piecemeal method we 
may get over the very greatest practical difficulty of all reasonable 
political reform, namely, the use of reason, instead of passion 
and violence, in executing the programme. There will be a 
possibility of reaching a reasonable compromise and therefore of 
achieving the improvement by democratic methods. Com- 
promise ’ is an ugly word, but it is important for us to learn its 
proper use. Institutions are inevitably the result of a compromise 
with circumstances, interests, etc., though as persons we should 
resist influences of this kind.) 

As opposed to that, the Utopian attempt to realize an ideal 
state, using a blueprint of society as a whole, is one which demands 
a strong centralized rule of a few, and which therefore is likely 
to lead to a dictatorship This I consider a criticism of the 
Utopian approach ; for I have tried to show, in the chapter on 
the Principle of Leadership, that an authoritarian rule is a most 
objectionable form of government. Some points not touched 
upon in that chapter furnish us with even more direct arguments 
against the Utopian approach. One of the difficulties faced by 
a benevolent dictator is to find whether the effects of his measures 
agree with his good intentions (as de Tocqueville saw clearly more 
than a hundred years ago ®). The difficulty arises out of the fact 
that authoritarianism must discourage criticism ; accordingly, 

i6o Plato’s politics 

the benevolent dictator will not easily hear of complaints con- 
cerning the measures he has taken. But without some such 
check, he can hardly find out whether his measures achieve the 
desired benevolent aim. The situation must become even worse 
for the Utopian engineer. The reconstruction of society is a big 
undertaking which must cause considerable inconvenience to 
many, and for a considerable span of time. Accordingly, the 
Utopian engineer will have to be deaf to many complaints ; 
in fact, it will be part of his business to suppress unreasonable 
objections. (He will say, like Lenin, ‘ You can’t make an 
omelette without breaking eggs.’) But with it, he must invari- 
ably suppress reasonable criticism also. Another difficulty of 
Utopian engineering is related to the problem of the dictators 
successor. In chapter 7 I have mentioned certain aspects of this 
problem. Utopian engineering raises a difficulty analogous to 
but even more serious than the one which faces the benevolent 
tyrant who tries to find an equally benevolent successor (see note 
25 to chapter 7). The very sweep of such a Utopian undertaking 
makes it improbable that it will realize its ends during the lifetime 
of one social engineer, or group of engineers. And if the suc- 
cessors do not pursue the same ideal, then all the sufferings of 
the people for the sake of the ideal may have been in vain. 

A generalization of this argument leads to a further criticism 
of the Utopian approach. This approach, it is clear, can be of 
practical value ordy if we assume that the original blueprint, 
perhaps with certain adjustments, remains the basis of the work 
until it is completed. But that will take some time. It will be 
a time of revolutions, both political and spiritual, and of new 
experiments and experience in the political field. It is therefore 
to be expected that ideas and ideals will change. What had 
appeared the ideal state to the people who made the original 
blueprint, may not appear so to their successors. If that is 
granted, then the whole approach breaks down. The method of 
first establishing an ultimate political aim and then beginning to 
move towards it is futile if we admit that the aim may be con- 
siderably changed during the process of its realization. It may 
at any moment turn out that tlie steps so far taken actually lead 
away from the realization of the new aim. And if we change 
our direction according to the new aim, then we expose ourselves 
to the same risk again. In spite of all the sacrifices made, we 
may never get an^here at all. Those who prefer one step 
towards a distant ideal to the realization of a piecemeal com- 


promise should always remember that if the ideal is very distant, 
it may even become difficult to say whether the step taken was 
towards or away from it. This is especially so if the course should 
proceed by zigzag steps, or, in Hegel’s jargon, ' dialectically or 
if it is not clearly planned at all. (This bears upon the old and 
somewhat childish question of how far the end can justify the 
means. Apart from claiming that no end could ever justify all 
means, I think that a fairly concrete and realizable end may 
justify temporary measures which a more distant ideal never 
could ^.) 

We see now that the Utopian approach can be saved only by 
the Platonic belief in one absolute and unchanging ideal, together 
with two further assumptions, namely {a) that there are rational 
methods to determine once and for all what this ideal is, and 
[b) what the best means of its realization are. Only such far- 
reaching assumptions could prevent us from declaring the 
Utopian methodology to be utterly futile. But even Plato him- 
self and the most ardent Platonists would admit that (a) is certainly 
not true ; that there is no rational method for determining the 
ultimate aim, but, if anything, only some kind of intuition. Any 
difference of opinion between Utopian engineers must therefore 
lead, in the absence of rational methods, to the use of power 
instead of reason, i.e. to violence. If any progress in any definite 
direction is made at all, then it is made in spite of the method 
adopted, not because of it. The success may be due, for instance, 
to the excellence of the leaders ; but we must never forget that 
excellent leaders cannot be produced by rational methods, but 
only by luck. 

It is important to understand this criticism properly ; I do not 
criticize the ideal by claiming that an ideal can never be realized, 
that it must always remain a Utopia. This would not be a valid 
criticism, for many things have been realized which have once 
been dogmatically declared to be unrealizable, for instance, the 
establishment of institutions for securing civil peace, i.e. for the 
prevention of crime within the state ; and I think that, for instance, 
the establishment of corresponding institutions for the prevention 
of international crime, i.e, armed aggression or blackmail, though 
often branded as Utopian, is not even a very difficult problem 
What I criticize under the name Utopian engineering recommends 
the reconstruction of society as a whole, i.e. very sweeping changes 
whose practical consequences are hard to calculate, owing to 
our limited experiences. It claims to plan rationally for the 

1 62 

Plato’s politics 

whole of society, although we do not possess anything like the 
factual knowledge which would be necessary to make good such 
an ambitious claim. We cannot possess such knowledge since we 
have insufficient practical experience in this kind of planning, and 
knowledge of facts must be based upon experience. At present, 
the sociological knowledge necessary for large-scale engineering 
is simply non-existent. 

In view of this criticism, the Utopian engineer is likely to 
grant the need for practical experience, and for a social technology 
based upon practical experiences. But he will argue that we 
shall never know more about these matters if we recoil from 
making social experiments which alone can furnish us with the 
practical experience needed. And he might add that Utopian 
engineering is nothing but the application of the experimental 
method to society. Experiments cannot be carried out without 
involving sweeping changes. They must be on a large scale, 
owing to the peculiar character of modern society with its great 
masses of people. An experiment in socialism, for instance, if 
confined to a factory, or to a village, or even to a district, would 
never give us the kind of realistic information which we need 
so urgently. 

Such arguments in favour of Utopian engineering exhibit a 
prejudice which is as widely held as it is untenable, namely, the 
prejudice that social experiments must be on a ‘ large scale that 
they must involve the whole of society if they are to be carried 
out under realistic conditions. But piecemeal social experiments 
can be carried out under realistic conditions, in the midst of 
society, in spite of being on a ' small scale ’, that is to say, without 
revolutionizing the whole of society. In fact, we are making such 
experiments all the time. The introduction of a new kind of 
life-insurance, of a new kind of taxation, of a new penal reform, 
are all social experiments which have their repercussions through 
the whole of society without remodelling society as a whole. 
Even a man who opens a new shop, or who reserves a ticket for the 
theatre, is carrying out a kind of social experiment on a small 
scale ; and all our knowledge of social conditions is based on 
experience gained by making experiments of this kind. The 
Utopian engineer we are opposing is right when he stresses that 
an experiment in socialism would be of little value if carried out 
under laboratory conditions, for instance, in an isolated village, 
since what we want to know is how things work out in society 
under normal social conditions. But this very example shows 


where the prejudice of the Utopian engineer lies. He is con- 
vinced that we must recast the whole structure of society, when we 
experiment with it ; and he can therefore conceive a more 
modest experiment only as one that recasts the whole structure of 
a small society. But the kind of experiment from which we can 
learn most is the alteration of one social institution at a time. 
For only in this way can we learn how to fit institutions into the 
framework of other institutions, and how to adjust them so that 
they work according to our intentions. And only in this way 
can we make mistakes, and learn from our mistakes, without 
risking repercussions of a gravity that must endanger the will to 
future reforms. Furthermore, the Utopian method must lead to 
a dangerous dogmatic attachment to a blueprint for which count- 
less sacrifices have been made. Powerful interests must become 
linked up with the success of the experiment. All this does not 
contribute to the rationality, or to the scientific value, of the 
experiment. But the piecemeal method permits repeated experi- 
ments and continuous readjustments. In fact, it might lead to 
the happy situation where politicians begin to look out for their 
own mistakes instead of trying to explain them away and to 
prove that they have always been right. This — and not Utopian 
planning or historical prophecy — ^would mean the introduction 
of scientific method into politics, since the whole secret of scientific 
method is a readiness to learn from mistakes ®. 

These views can be corroborated, I believe, by comparing 
social and, for instance, mechanical engineering. The Utopian 
engineer will of course claim that mechanical engineers sometimes 
plan even very complicated machinery as a whole, and that their 
blueprints may cover, and plan in advance, not only a certain 
kind of machinery, but even the whole factory which produces 
this machinery. My reply would be that the mechanical engineer 
can do all this because he has sufficient experience at his disposal, 
i.e. theories developed by trial and error. But this means that he 
can plan because he has made all kinds of mistakes already ; or 
in other words, because he relies on experience which he has 
gained by applying piecemeal methods. His new machinery is 
the result of a great many small improvements. He usually has 
a model first, and only after a great number of piecemeal adjust- 
ments to its various parts does he proceed to a stage where he 
could draw up his final plans for the production. Similarly, his 
plan for the production of his machine incorporates a great 
number of experiences, namely, of piecemeal improvements made 

Plato’s politics 


in older factories. The wholesale or large-scale method works 
only where the piecemeal method has furnished us first with a 
great number of detailed experiences, and even then only within 
the realm of these experiences. Few manufacturers would be 
prepared to proceed to the production of a new engine on the 
basis of a blueprint alone, even if it were drawn up by the greatest 
expert, without first making a model and ‘ developing ’ it by little 
adjustments as far as possible. 

It is perhaps useful to contrast this criticism of Platonic 
Idealism in politics with Marx’s criticism of what he calls 
‘ Utopianism ’. What is common to Marx’s criticism and mine 
is that both demand more realism. We both believe that 
Utopian plans will never be realized in the way they were con- 
ceived, because hardly any social action ever produces precisely 
the result expected. (This does not, in my opinion, invalidate 
the piecemeal approach, because here we may learn — or rather, 
we ought to learn — and change our views, while we act.) But 
there are many differences. In arguing against Utopianism, 
Marx condemns in fact all social engineering — a point which is 
rarely understood. He denounces the faith in a rational plan- 
ning of social institutions as altogether unrealistic, since society 
must grow according to the laws of history and not according 
to our rational plans. All we can do, he asserts, is to lessen the 
birthpangs of the historical processes. In other words, he adopts 
a radically historicist attitude, opposed to all social engineering. 
But there is one element within Utopianism which is particularly 
characteristic of Plato’s approach and which Marx does not 
oppose, although it is perhaps the most important of those 
elements which I have attacked as unrealistic. It is the sweep of 
Utopianism, its attempt to deal with society as a whole, leaving 
no stone unturned. It is the conviction that one has to go to the 
very root of the social evil, that nothing short of a complete 
eradication of the offending social system will do if we wish to 
‘ bring any decency into the world ’ (as Du Gard says). It is, 
in short, its uncompromising radicalism. (The reader will notice 
that I am using this term in its original and literal sense — not 
in the now customary sense of a ‘ liberal progressivism ’, but in 
order to characterize an attitude of ‘ going to the root of the 
matter ’.) Both Plato and Marx are dreaming of the apocalyptic 
revolution which will radically transfigure the whole social world. 

This sweep, this extreme radicalism of the Platonic approach 
(and of the Marxian as well) is, I believe, connected with its 


aestheticism, i.e. with the desire to build a world which is not 
only a little better and more rational than ours, but which is 
free from all its ugliness : not a crazy quilt, an old garment badly 
patched, but an entirely new gown, a really beautiful new world 
This aestheticism is a very understandable attitude ; in fact, I 
believe most of us suffer a little from such dreams of perfection. 
(Some reasons why we do so will, I hope, emerge from the next 
chapter.) But this aesthetic enthusiasm becomes valuable only 
if it is bridled by reason, by a feeling of responsibility, and by 
a humanitarian urge to help. Otherwise it is a dangerous 
enthusiasm, liable to develop into a form of neurosis or hysteria. 

Nowhere do we find this aestheticism more strongly expressed 
than in Plato. Plato was an artist ; and like many of the best 
artists, he tried to visualize a model, the ^ divine original ' of his 
work, and to ^ copy ’ it faithfully. A good number of the quotations 
given in the last chapter illustrate this point. What Plato 
describes as dialectics is, in the main, the intellectual intuition of 
the world of pure beauty. His trained philosophers are men 
who ‘ have seen the truth of what is beautiful and just, and 
good ’ and can bring it down from heaven to earth. Politics, 
to Plato, is the Royal Art. It is an art — not in a metaphorical 
sense in which we may speak about the art of handling men, or 
the art of getting things done, but in a more literal sense of the 
word. It is an art of composition, like music, painting, or 
architecture. The Platonic politician composes cities, for beauty’s 

But here I must protest. I do not believe that human lives 
may be made the means for satisfying an artist’s desire for self- 
expression, tWe must demand, rather, that every man should be 
given, if he wishes, the right to rnodel his life himself, as far as 
this does not interfere too much with others. Much as I may 
sympathize with the aesthetic impulse, I suggest that the artist 
might seek expression in another material. Politics, I demand, 
must uphold equalitarian and individualistic principles ; dreams of 
beauty have to submit to the necessity of helping men in distress, 
and men who suffer injustice ; and to the necessity of con- 
structing institutions to serve such purposes 

It is interesting to observe the close relationship between 
Plato’s utter radicalism, the demand for sweeping measures, and 
his aestheticism. The following passages are most characteristic. 
Plato, speaking about ^ the philosopher who has communion with 
the divine mentions first that he will be ‘ oveiwhelmed by the 

Plato’s politics 

1 66 

urge . . to realize his heavenly vision in individuals as well as 
in the city — a city which ‘ will never know happiness unless its 
draughtsmen are artists who have the divine as their model 
Asked about the details of their draughtsmanship, Plato’s 
‘ Socrates ’ gives the following striking reply : * They will take as 
their canvas a city and the characters of men, and they will, first 
of all, make their canvas clean — by no means an easy matter. But 
this is just the point, you know, where they will differ from all 
others. They will not start work on a city nor on an individual 
(nor will they draw up laws) unless they are given a clean canvas, 
or have cleaned it themselves.’ 

The kind of thing Plato has in mind when he speaks of canvas- 
cleaning is explained a little later. ‘ How can that be done ? ’ 
asks Glaucon. All citizens above the age of ten Socrates 
answers, ‘ must be expelled from the city and deported some- 
where into the country ; and the children who are now free from 
the influence of the manners and habits of their parents must be 
taken over. They must be educated in the ways [of true philo- 
sophy], and according to the laws, which we have described.’ 
(The philosophers are not, of course, among the citizens to be 
expelled : they remain as educators, and so do, presumably, those 
non-citizens who must keep them going.) In the same spirit, 
Plato says in the Statesman of the royal rulers who rule in accord- 
ance with the Royal Science of Statesmanship : ‘ Whether they 
happen to rule by law or without law, over willing or unwilling 
subjects ; . . . and whether they purge the state for its good, 
by killing or by deporting [or ^ banishing ’] some of its citizens 
. . . — so long as they proceed according to science and justice, 
and preserve . . . the state and make it better than it was, this 
form of government must be declared the only one that is right.’ 

This is the way in which the artist-politician must proceed. 
This is what canvas-cleaning means. He must eradicate the 
existing institutions and traditions. He ' must purify, purge, 
expel, banish, and kill. (" Liquidate ’ is the terrible modern 
term for it.) Plato’s statement is indeed a true description of 
the uncompromising attitude of all forms of out-and-out radical- 
ism — of the aestheticist’s refusal to compromise. The view that 
society should be beautiful like a work of art leads only too easily 
to violent measures. But all this radicalism and violence is both 
unrealistic and futile, (This has been shown by the example of 
Russia’s development. After the economic breakdown to which 
the canvas-cleaning of the so-called ‘ war communism ’ had led, 


Lenin introduced his ' New Economic Policy in fact a kind of 
piecemeal engineering, though without the conscious formulation 
of its principles or of a technology. He started by restoring most 
of the features of the picture which had been eradicated with 
so much human suffering. Money, markets, differentiation of 
income, and private property — ^for a time even private enterprise 
in production — were reintroduced, and only after this basis was 
re-established began a new period of reform 

In order to criticize the foundations of Plato’s aesthetic 
radicalism, we may distinguish two different points. 

The first is this. What some people have in mind who speak 
of our ‘ social system and of the need to replace it by another 
* system is very similar to a picture painted on a canvas which 
has to be wiped clean before one can paint a new one. But there 
are some great differences. One of them is that the painter and 
those who co-operate with him as well as the institutions which 
make their life possible, his dreams and plans for a better world, 
and his standards of decency and morality, are all part of the 
social system, i.e. of the picture to be wiped out. If they were 
really to clean the canvas, they would have to destroy themselves, 
and their Utopian plans. (And what follows then would prob- 
ably not be a beautiful copy of a Platonic ideal but chaos.) The 
political artist clamours, like Archimedes, for a place outside the 
social world on which he can take his stand, in order to lever 
it off its hinges. But such a place does not exist ; and the social 
world must continue to function during any reconstruction. This 
is the simple reason why we must reform its institutions little by 
little, until we have more experience in social engineering. 

This leads us to the more important second point, to the 
irrationalism which is inherent in radicalism. In all matters, 
we can only learn by trial and error, by making mistakes and 
improvements ; we can never rely on inspiration, although in- 
spirations may be most valuable as long as they can be checked by 
experience. Accordingly, it is not reasonable to assume that a complete 
reconstruction of our social world would lead at once to a workable system. 
Rather we should expect that, owing to lack of experience, many 
mistakes would be made which could be eliminated only by a 
long and laborious process of small adjustments ; in other words, 
by that rational method of piecemeal engineering whose appli- 
cation we advocate. But those who dislike this method as 
insufEciently radical would have again to wipe out their freshly 
constructed society, in order to start anew with a clean canvas ; 

Plato’s politics 

1 68 

and since the new start, for the same reasons, would not lead to 
perfection either, they would have to repeat this process without 
ever getting anywhere* Those who admit this and are prepared 
to adopt our more modest method of piecemeal improvements, 
but only after the first radical canvas-cleaning, can hardly escape 
the criticism that their first sweeping and violent measures were 
quite unnecessary. 

Aestheticism and radicalism must lead us to jettison reason, 
and to replace it by a desperate hope for political miracles. This 
irrational attitude which springs from an intoxication with 
dreams of a beautiful world is what I call Romanticism It 
may seek its heavenly city in the past or in the future ; it may 
preach ‘ back to nature ’ or ‘ forward to a world of love and 
beauty ’ ; but its appeal is always to our emotions rather than to 
reason. Even with the best intentions of making heaven on 
earth it only succeeds in making it a hell — that hell which man 
alone prepares for his fellow-men. 

the background of Plato's attack 


He will restore us to our original nature, and heal 
us, and make us happy and blessed. 


There is still something missing from our analysis. The 
contention that Plato's political programme is purely totalitarian, 
and the objections to this contention which were raised in 
chapter 6, have led us to examine the part played, within this 
programme, by such moral ideas as Justice, Wisdom, Truth, and 
Beauty. The result of this examination was always the same. 
We found that the role of these ideas is important, but that they 
do not lead Plato beyond totalitarianism and racialism. But one 
of these ideas we have ^till to examine : that of Happiness. It 
may be remembered that we quoted Crossman in connection with 
the belief that Plato's political programme is fundamentally a 
‘ plan for the building of a perfect state in which every citizen is 
really happy ', and that I described this belief as a relic of the 
tendency to idealize Plato. If called upon to justify my opinion, 
I should not have much difficulty in pointing out that Plato’s 
treatment of happiness is exactly analogous to his treatment of 
justice ; and especially, that it is based upon the same belief that 
society is ‘ by nature ’ divided into classes or castes. True hap- 
piness \ Plato insists, is achieved only by justice, i.e. by keeping 
one’s place. The ruler must find happiness in ruling, the warrior 
in warring ; and, we may infer, the slave in slaving. Apart from 
that, Plato says frequently that what he is aiming at is neither 
the happiness of individuals nor that of any particular class in the 
state, but only the happiness of the whole, and this, he argues, 
is nothing but the outcome of that rule of justice which I have 
shown to be totalitarian in character. That only this justice 
can lead to any true happiness is one of the main theses of the 

In view of all this, it seems to be a consistent and hardly 
refutable interpretation of the material to present Plato as a 
totalitarian party-politician, unsuccessful in his immediate and 
practical undertakings, but in the long run only too successful ® 



in his propaganda for the arrest and overthrow of a civilization 
which he hated. But one only has to put the matter in this blunt 
fashion in order to feel that there is something seriously amiss 
with this interpretation. At any rate, so I felt, when I had 
formulated it. I felt perhaps not so much that it was untrue, 
but that it was defective. I therefore began to search for evidence 
which would refute this interpretation However, in every 
point but one, this attempt to refute my interpretation was quite 
unsuccessful. The new material made the identity between 
Platonism and totalitarianism only the more manifest. * 

The one point in which I felt that my search for a refutation 
had succeeded concerned Plato’s hatred of tyranny. Of course, 
there was always the possibility of explaining this away. It 
would have been easy to say that his indictment of tyranny was 
mere propaganda. Totalitarianism often professes a love for 
‘ true ’ freedom, and Plato’s praise of freedom as opposed to 
tyranny sounds exactly like this professed love. In spite of this, 
I felt that certain of his observations on tyranny ^ which will be 
mentioned later in this chapter, were sincere. The fact, of 
course, that ‘ tyranny ’ usually meant in Plato’s day a form of 
rule based on the support of the masses made it possible to claim 
that Plato’s hatred of tyranny was consistent with my original 
interpretation. But I felt that this did not remove the need for 
modifying my interpretation. I also felt that the mere emphasis 
on Plato’s fundamental sincerity was quite insufficient to accom- 
plish this modification. No amount of emphasis could offset the 
general impression of the picture. A new picture was needed 
which would have to include Plato’s sincere belief in his mission 
as healer of the sick social body, as well as the fact that he had 
seen more clearly than anybody else before or after him what was 
happening to Greek society. Since the attempt to reject the 
identity of Platonism and totalitarianism had not improved the 
picture, I was ultimately forced to modify my interpretation of 
totalitarianism itself. In other words, my attempt to understand 
Plato by analogy with modern totalitarianism led me, to my own 
surprise, to modify my view of totalitarianism. It did not modify 
my hostility, but it ultimately led me to see that the strength of 
both the old and the new totalitarian movements rested on the 
fact that they attempted to answer a very real need, however 
badly conceived this attempt may have been. 

In the light of my new interpretation, it appears to me that 
Plato’s declaration of his wish to make the state and its citizens 


happy is not merely propaganda. I am ready to grant Ms 
fundamental benevolence I also grant that he was rights to 
a limited extent, in the sociological analysis on which he based 
his promise of happiness. To put this point more precisely : I 
believe that Plato, with deep sociological insight, found that his 
contemporaries were suffering under a severe strain, and that this 
strain was due to the social revolution which had begun with the 
rise of democracy and individualism. He succeeded in discover- 
ing the main causes of their deeply rooted unhappiness — social 
change, and social dissension — and he did his utmost to fight 
them. There is no reason to doubt that one of his most powerful 
motives was to win back happiness for the citizens. For reasons 
discussed later in this chapter, I believe that the medico-political 
treatment which he recommended, the arrest of change and the 
return to tribalism, was hopelessly wrong. But the recommenda- 
tion, though not practicable as a therapy, testifies to Plato’s power 
of diagnosis. It shows that he knew what was amiss, that he 
understood the strain, the unhappiness, under which the people 
were labouring, even though he erred in his fundamental claim 
that by leading them back to tribalism he could lessen the strain, 
and restore their happiness. 

It is my intention to give in this chapter a very brief survey of 
the historical material which induced me to hold such opinions. 
A few critical remarks on the method adopted, that of historical 
interpretation, will be found in the last chapter of the book. It 
will therefore suffice here if I say that I do not claim scientific 
status for this method, since the tests of an historical interpretation 
can never be as rigorous as those of an ordinary hypothesis. The 
interpretation is mainly a point of view^ whose value lies in its 
fertility, irf its power to throw light upon the historical material, 
to lead us to find new material, and to help us to rationalize and 
to unify it. What I am going to say here is therefore not meant 
as a dogmatic assertion, however boldly I may perhaps sometimes 
express my opinions. 


Our Western civilization originated with the Greeks. They 
were, it seems, the first to make the step from tribalism to 
humanitarianism. Let us consider what that means. 

The early Greek tribal society resembles in many respects 
that of peoples like the Polynesians, the Maoris for instance. 
Small bands of warriors, usually living in fortified settlements. 



ruled by tribal chiefs or kings, or by aristocratic families, were 
waging war against one another on sea as well as on land. There 
were, of course, many differences between the Greek and the 
Polynesian ways of life, for there is, admittedly, no uniformity in 
tribalism. There is no standardized ‘ tribal way of life \ It 
seems to me, however, that there are some characteristics that 
can be found in most, if not all, of these tribal societies. I mean 
their magical or irrational attitude towards the customs of social 
life, and the corresponding rigidity of these customs. 

The magical attitude towards social custom has been discussed 
before. Its main element is the lack of distinction between the 
customary or conventional regularities of social life and the 
regularities found in ^ nature * ; and this often goes together with 
the belief that both are enforced by a supernatural will. The 
rigidity of the social customs is probably in most cases only another 
aspect of the same attitude. (There are some reasons to believe 
that this aspect is even more primitive, and that the supernatural 
belief is a kind of rationalization of the fear of changing a routine 
— a fear which we can find in very young children.) When I 
speak of the rigidity of tribalism I do not mean that no changes 
can occur in the tribal ways of life. I mean rather that the 
comparatively infrequent changes have the character of religious 
conversions or revulsions, or of the introduction of new magical 
taboos. They are not based upon a rational attempt to improve 
social conditions. Apart from such changes — which are rare — 
taboos rigidly regulate and dominate aU aspects of life. They 
do not leave many loop-holes. There are few problems in this 
form of life, and nothing really equivalent to moral problems. I 
do not mean to say that a member of a tribe does not sometimes 
need much heroism and endurance in order to act in accordance 
with the taboos. What I mean is that he will rarely find himself 
in the position of doubting how he ought to act. The right way is 
always determined, though difficulties must be overcome in fol- 
lowing it. It is determined by taboos, by magical tribal institu- 
tions which can never become objects of critical consideration. 
Not even a Heraclitus distinguishes clearly between the institu- 
tional laws of tribal life and the laws of nature ; both are taken to 
be of the same magical character. Based upon the collective 
tribal tradition, the institutions leave no room for personal res- 
ponsibility. The taboos that establish some form of group- 
responsibility may be the forerunner of what we call personal 
responsibility, but they are fundamentally different from it. They 



are not based upon a principle of reasonable accountability-j but 
rather upon magical ideas, such as the idea of appeasing the 
powers of fate. 

It is well known how much of this still survives. Our own 
ways of life are still beset with taboos ; food taboos, taboos of 
politeness, and many others. And yet, there are some important 
differences. In our own way of life there is, between the laws of 
the state on the one hand and the taboos we habitually observe 
on the other, an ever-widening field of personal decisions, with 
its problems and responsibilities ; and we know the importance 
of this field. Personal decisions may lead to the alteration of 
taboos, and even of political laws which are no longer taboos. 
The great difference is the possibility of rational reflection upon 
these matters. Rational reflection begins, in a way, with 
Heraclitus With Alcmaeon, Phaleas and Hippodamus, with 
Herodotus and the Sophists, the quest for the best constitution ’ 
assumes, by degrees, the character of a problem which can be 
rationally discussed. And in our own time, many of us make 
rational decisions concerning the desirability or otherwise of new 
legislation, and of other institutional changes • that is to say, 
decisions based upon an estimate of possible consequences, and 
upon a conscious preference for some of them. We recognize 
rational personal responsibility. 

In what follows, the magical or tribal or collectivist society 
will also be called the closed society^ and the society in which 
individuals are confronted with personal decisions, the open 

A closed society at its best can be justly compared to an 
organism. The so-caUed organic or biological theory of the 
state can be applied to it to a considerable extent. A closed 
society resembles a herd or a tribe in being a semi-organic 
unit, whose members are held together by semi-biological ties — 
kinship, living together, sharing common efforts, common dan- 
gers, common joys and common distress. It is still a concrete 
group of concrete individuals, related to one another not merely 
by such abstract social relationships as division of labour and 
exchange of commodities, but by concrete physical relationships 
such as touch, smell, and sight. And although such a society 
may be based on slavery, the presence of slaves need not create 
a fundamentally different problem from that of domesticated 
animals. Thus those aspects are lacking which make it impos- 
sible to apply the organic theory successfully to an open society. 

174 the background of plato’s attack 

The aspects I have in mind are connected with the fact that, 
in an open society, many members strive to rise socially, and to 
take the places of other members. This may lead, for example, 
to such an important social phenomenon as class struggle. We 
cannot find anything like class struggle in an organism. The 
cells or tissues of an organism, which are sometimes said to 
correspond to the members of a state, may perhaps compete 
for food ; but there is no inherent tendency on the part of the 
legs to become the brain, or of other members of the body to 
become the belly. Since there is nothing in the organism to 
correspond to one of the most important characteristics of the 
open society, competition for status among its members, the 
so-called organic theory of the state is based on a false analogy. 
The closed society, on the other hand, does not know much of such 
tendencies. Its institutions, including its castes, are sacrosanct 
— taboo. The organic theory does not fit so badly here. It is 
therefore not surprising to find that most attempts to apply the 
organic theory to our society are veiled forms of propaganda for 
a return to tribalism 

As a consequence of its loss of organic character, an open 
society may become, by degrees, what I should like to term an 
‘ abstract society It may, to a considerable extent, lose the 
character of a concrete or real group of men, or of a system of 
such real groups. This point which has been rarely understood 
may be explained by way of an exaggeration. We could con- 
ceive of a society in which men practically never meet face to 
face — in which all business is conducted by individuals in isola- 
tion who communicate by typed letters or by telegrams, and 
who go about in closed motor-cars. (Artificial insemination 
would allow even propagation without a personal element.) Such 
a fictitious society might be called a ‘ completely abstract or de- 
personalized society \ Now the interesting point is that our 
modern society resembles in many of its aspects such a com- 
pletely abstract society. Although we do not always drive alone 
in closed motor cars (but meet face to face thousands of men 
walking past us in the street) the result is very nearly the same 
as if we did — ^we do not establish as a rule any personal relation 
with our fellow-pedestrians. Similarly, membership of a trade 
union may mean no more than the possession of a membership 
card and the payment of a contribution to an unknown secretary. 
There are many people li\dng in a modem society who have 
no, or extremely few, intimate personal contacts, who live in 



anonymity and isolation, and consequently in unhappiness. For 
although society has become abstract, the biological make-up of 
man has not changed much ; men have social needs which they 
cannot satisfy in an abstract society. 

Of course, our picture is even in this form highly exaggerated. 
There never will be or can be a completely abstract or even a 
predominantly abstract society — no more than a completely 
rational or even a predominantly rational society. Men still 
form real groups and enter into real social contacts of all kinds, 
and try to satisfy their emotional social needs as well as they 
can. But most of the social groups of a modern open society 
(with the exception of some lucky family groups) are poor sub- 
stitutes, since they do not provide for a common life. And many 
of them do not have any function in the life of the society at 

Another way in which the picture is exaggerated is that it 
does not, so far, contain any of the gains made — only the losses. 
But there are gains. Personal relationships of a new kind can 
arise where they can be freely entered into, instead of being 
determined by the accidents of birth ; and with this, a new 
individualism arises. Similarly, spiritual bonds can play a major 
role where the biological or physical bonds are weakened ; etc. 
However this may be, our example, I hope, will have made plain 
what is meant by a more abstract society in contradistinction to 
a more concrete or real social group ; and it will have made it 
clear that our modern open societies function largely by way of 
abstract relations, such as exchange or co-operation. (It is the 
analysis of these abstract relations with which modern social 
theory, such as economic theory, is mainly concerned. This 
point has not been understood by many sociologists, such as 
Durkheim, who never gave up the dogmatic belief that society 
must be analysed in terms of real social groups.) 

In the light of what has been said, it will be clear that the 
transition from the closed to the open society can be described as 
one of the deepest revolutions through which mankind has passed. 
Owing to what we have described as the biological character 
of the closed society, this transition must be felt deeply indeed. 
Thus when we say that our Western ciyilization derives from the 
Greeks, we ought to realize what it means. It means that the 
Greeks started for us that great revolution which, it seems, is still 
in its beginning — the transition from the closed to the open 




Of coursCj this revolution was not made consciously. The 
breakdown of tribalism, of the closed societies of Greece, may be 
traced back to the time when population growth began to make 
itself felt among the ruling class of landed proprietors. This 
meant the end of ^ organic ’ tribalism. For it created social 
tension within the closed society of the ruling class. At first, 
there appeared to be something like an ‘ organic ’ solution of 
this problem, the creation of daughter cities. (The ‘ organic ’ 
character of this solution was underlined by the magical pro- 
cedures followed in the sending out of colonists.) But this ritual 
of colonization only postponed the breakdown. It even created 
new danger spots wherever it led to cultural contacts ; and 
these, in turn, created what was perhaps the worst danger 
to the closed society — commerce, and a new class engaged in 
trade and seafaring. By the sixth century B.C., this development 
had led to the partial dissolution of the old ways of life, and 
even to a series of political revolutions and reactions. And it 
had led not only to attempts to retain and to arrest tribalism 
by force, as in Sparta, but also to that great spiritual revolution, 
the invention of critical discussion, and, in consequence, of thought 
that was free from magical obsessions. At the same time we find 
the first symptoms of a new uneasiness. The strain of civilization 
was beginning to be felt 

This strain, this uneasiness, is a consequence of the break- 
down of the closed society. It is still felt even in our day, 
especially in times of social change. It is the strain created by 
the effort which life in an open and partially abstract society 
continually demands from us — by the endeavour to be rational, 
to forgo at least some of our emotional social needs, to look after 
ourselves, and to accept responsibilities. We must, I believe, 
bear this strain as the price to be paid for every increase in know- 
ledge, in reasonableness, in co-operation and in mutual help, and 
consequently in our chances of survival, and in the size of the 
population. It is the price we have to pay for being human. 

The strain is most closely related to the problem of the 
tension between the classes which is raised for the first time by 
the breakdown of the closed society. The closed society itself 
does not know this problem. At least to its ruling members, 
slavery, caste, and class rule are * natural ’ in the sense of being 
unquestionable. But with the breakdown of the closed society, 



this certainty disappears, and with it all feeling of security. The 
tribal community (and later the ‘ city ’) is the place of security 
for the member of the tribe. Surrounded by enemies and by 
dangerous or even hostile magical forces, he experiences the tribal 
community as a child experiences his family and his home, in 
which he plays his definite part ; a part he knows well, and plays 
well The breakdown of the closed society, raising as it does the 
problems of class and other problems of social status, must have 
had the same effect upon the citizens as a serious family quarrel 
and the breaking up of the family home is liable to have on 
children Of course, this kind of strain was felt by the privileged 
classes, now that they were threatened, more strongly than by 
those who had formerly been suppressed ; but even the latter 
felt uneasy. They also were frightened by the breakdown of 
their ‘ natural ’ world. And though they continued to fight their 
struggle, they were often reluctant to exploit their victories over 
their class enemies who were supported by tradition, the status 
quo, a higher level of education, and a feeling of natural authority. 

In this light we must try to understand the history of Sparta, 
which successfully tried to arrest these developments, and of 
Athens, the leading democracy. 

Perhaps the most powerful cause of the breakdown of the 
closed society was the development of sea-communications and 
commerce. * Close contact with other tribes is liable to undermine 
the feeling of necessity with which tribal institutions are viewed ; 
and trade, commercial initiative, appears to be one of the few 
forms in which individual initiative ® and independence can 
assert itself, even in a society in which tribalism still prevails. 
These two, seafaring and commerce, became the main charac- 
teristics of Athenian imperialism, as it developed in the fifth 
century b.g. And indeed they were recognized as the most 
dangerous developments by the oligarchs, the members of the 
privileged, or of the formerly privileged, classes of Athens. It 
became clear to them that the trade of Athens, its monetary 
commercialism, its naval policy, and its democratic tendencies 
were parts of one single movement, and that it was impossible 
to defeat democracy without going to the roots of the evil and 
destroying both the naval policy and the empire. But the naval 
policy of Athens was based upon its harbours, especially the 
Piraeus, the centre of commerce and the stronghold of the demo- 
cratic party ; and strategically, upon the walls which fortified 
Athens, and later, upon the Long Walls which linked it to the 


harbours of the Piraeus and Phalerum. Accordingly, we find 
that for more than a century the empire, the fleet, the harbour, 
and the walls were hated by the oligarchic parties of Athens as 
the symbols of the democracy and as the sources of its strength 
which they hoped one day to destroy. 

Much evidence of this development can be found in Thucydides’ 
History of the Peloponnesian War^ or rather, of the two great wars of 
431-421 and 419-403 B.C., between Athenian democracy and 
the arrested oligarchic tribalism of Sparta. When reading 
Thucydides we must never forget that his heart was not with 
Athens, his native city. Although he apparently did not belong 
to the extreme wing of the Athenian oligarchic clubs who 
conspired throughout the war with the enemy, he was certainly a 
member of the oligarchic party, and a friend neither of the 
Athenian people, the demos, who had exiled him, nor of its 
imperialist policy. (I do not intend to belittle Thucydides, the 
greatest historian, perhaps, who ever lived. But however 
successful he was in making sure of the facts he records, and 
however sincere his efforts to be impartial, his comments and 
moral judgements represent an interpretation, a point of view ; 
and in this we need not agree with him.) I quote first from a 
passage describing Themistocles’ policy in 482 b.c., half a century 
before the Peloponnesian war : ‘ Themistocles also persuaded the 
Athenians to finish the Piraeus. • . Since the Athenians had 
now taken to the sea, he thought that they had a great oppor- 
tunity for building an empire. He was the first who dared to 
say that they should make the sea their domain. . Twenty- 
five years later, ' the Athenians began to build their Long Walls 
to the sea, one to the harbour of Bhalerum, the other to the 
Piraeus ^ But thisr time, twenty-six years before the outbreak 
of the Peloponnesian war, the oligarchic party was fully aware of 
the meaning of these developments. We hear from Thucydides 
that they did not shrink even from the most blatant treachery. As 
sometimes happens with oligarchs, class interest superseded their 
patriotism. An opportunity offered itself in the form of a hostile 
Spartan expeditionary force operating in the north of Athens, 
and they determined to conspire with Sparta against their own 
country, Thucydides writes : ‘ Certain Athenians were privately 
making overtures to them ’ (i.e. to the Spartans) ^ in the hope that 
tk^ would put an end to the democracy^ and to the building of the 
Long Walls. But the other Athenians . . suspected their design 
against democracy.’ The loyal Athenian citizens therefore went 



out to meet the Spartans, but were defeated. It appears, how- 
ever, that they had weakened the enemy sufficiently to prevent 
him from joining forces with the fifth columnists within their own 
city. Some months later, the Long Walls were completed, 
which meant that the democracy could enjoy security as long as 
it upheld its naval supremacy. 

This incident throws light on the tenseness of the class 
situation in Athens, even twenty-six years before the outbreak 
of the Peloponnesian war, during wMch the situation became 
much worse. It also throws light on the methods employed by 
the subversive and pro-Spartan oligarchic party. Thucydides, 
one must note, mentions their treachery only in passing, and he 
does not censure them, although in other places he speaks most 
strongly against class struggle and party spirit. The next passages 
quoted, written as a general reflection on the Corcyraean Revo- 
lution of 427 B.C., are interesting, first as an excellent picture 
of the class situation ; secondly, as an illustration of the strong 
words Thucydides could find when he wanted to describe 
analogous tendencies on the side of the democrats of Corcyral 
(In order to judge his lack of impartiality we must remember 
that in the beginning of the war Corcyra had been one of Athens’ 
democratic allies, and that the revolt had been started by the 
oligarchs.) Moreover, the passage is an excellent expression of 
the feeling of a general social breakdown : ‘ Nearly the whole 
Hellenic world ’, writes Thucydides, ‘ was in commotion. In 
every city, the leaders of the democratic and of the oligarchic 
parties were trying hard, the one to bring in the Athenians, the 
other the Lacedaemonians. . . The tie of party was stronger 
than the tie of blood. . . The leaders on either side used specious 
names, the one party professing to uphold the constitutional 
equality of the many, the other the wisdom of the nobility ; 
in reality they made the public interest their price, professing, 
of course, their devotion to it. They used any conceivable means 
for getting the better of one another, and committed the most 
monstrous crimes. . . This revolution gave birth to every form 
of wickedness in Hellas. . . Everywhere prevailed an attitude 
of perfidious antagonism. There was no word binding enough, 
no oath terrible enough, to reconcile enemies. Each man was 
strong only in the conviction that nothing was secure.’ 

The full significance of the attempt of the Athenian oligarchs 
to accept the help of Sparta and stop the building of the Long 
Walls can be gauged when we realize that this treacherous 


attitude had not changed when Aristotle wrote his Politics^ more 
than a century later. We hear there about an oligarchic oath, 
which, Aristotle said, ‘ is now in vogue \ This is how it runs : 
* I promise to be an enemy of the people, and to do my best to 
give them bad advice ! ’ It is clear that we cannot understand 
the period without remembering this attitude. 

I mentioned above that Thucydides himself was an anti- 
democrat. This becomes clear when we consider his description 
of the Athenian empire, and the way it was hated by the various 
Greek states. Athens’ rule over its empire, he tells us, was felt 
to be no better than a tyranny, and all the Greek tribes were 
afraid of her. In describing public opinion at the outbreak of 
the Peloponnesian war, he is mildly critical of Sparta and very 
critical of Athenian imperialism. ‘ The general feeling of the 
peoples was strongly on the side of the Lacedaemonians ; for 
they maintained that they were the liberators of Hellas. Cities 
and individuals were eager to assist them . . , and the general 
indignation against the Athenians was intense. Some were 
longing to be liberated from Athens, others fearful of falling under 
its sway.’ It is most interesting that this judgement of the 
Athenian empire has become, more or less, the official judgement 
of ' History i.e. of most of the historians. Just as the philo- 
sophers find it hard to free themselves from Plato’s point of view, 
so are the historians bound to that of Thucydides. As an example 
I may quote Meyer (the best German authority on this period), 
who simply repeats Thucydides when he says : ^ The sympathies 
of the educated world of Greece were . . turned away from 

^ But such statements are only expressions of the anti-democratic 
point of view. Many facts recorded by Thucydides — ^for instance, 
the passage quoted which describes the attitude of the democratic 
and oligarchic party leaders—show that Sparta was ‘ popular ’ 
not among the peoples of Greece but only among the oligarchs ; 
among the ' educated as Meyer puts it so nicely. Even Meyer 
admits that * the democratically minded masses hoped in many 
places for her victory ’ i.e. for the victory of Athens ; and 
Thucydides narrative contains many instances which prove 
Athens’ popularity among the democrats and the suppressed. 
But who cares for the opinion of the uneducated masses ? If 
Thucydides and the ^ educated ’ assert that Athens was a tyrant, 
then she was a tyrant. 

It is most interesting that the same historians who hail Rome 


for her achievement, the foundation of a universal empire, 
condemn Athens for her attempt to achieve something better. 
The fact that Rome succeeded where Athens failed is not a 
sufficient explanation of this attitude. They do not really censure 
Athens for her failure, since they loathe the very idea that her 
attempt might have been successful. Athens, they believe, was a 
ruthless democracy, a place ruled by the uneducated, who hated 
and suppressed the educated, and were hated by them in turn. 
But this view — the myth of the cultural intolerance of democratic 
Athens — makes nonsense of the known facts, and above all of the 
astonishing spiritual productivity of Athens in this particular 
period. Even Meyer must admit this productivity. ^ What 
Athens produced in this decade he says with characteristic 
modesty, ^ ranks equal with one of the mightiest decades of 
German literature.’ Pericles, who was the democratic leader 
of Athens at this time, was more than justified when he called 
her The School of Hellas ’. 

I am far from defending everything that Athens did in building 
up her empire, and I certainly do' not wish to defend wanton 
attacks (if such have occurred), or acts of brutality ; nor do I 
forget that Athenian democracy was still based on slavery 
But it is necessary, I believe, to see that tribalist exclusiveness 
and self-sufficiency could be superseded only by some form of 
imperialism. And it must be said that certain of the imperialist 
measures introduced by Athens were rather liberal. One very 
interesting instance is the fact that Athens offered, in 405 b.c., 
to her ally, the Ionian island Samos, ‘ that the Samians should 
be Athenians from now on ; and that both cities should be one 
state ; and that the Samians should order their internal affairs 
as they chose, and retain their laws.’ Another instance is 
Athens’ method of taxing her empire. Much has been said about 
these taxes, or tributes, which have been described — very unjustly, 
I believe — as a shameless and tyrannical way of exploiting the 
smaller cities. In an attempt to evaluate the significance of these 
taxes, we must, of course, compare them with the volume of the 
trade which, in return, was protected by the Atherdan fleet. The 
necessary information is given by Thucydides, from whom we 
learn that the Athenians imposed upon their allies, in 413 jb.c., 

* in place of the tribute, a duty of 5 per cent, on all things im- 
ported and exported by sea ; and they thought that this would 
yield more ’ This measure, adopted under severe strain of 
war, compares favourably, I believe, with the Roman methods 

O.S.I.E. — ^VOL. I G 

i82 the background of Plato’s attack 

of centralization. The Athenians, by this method of taxation, 
became interested in the development of allied trade, and so in 
the initiative and independence of the various members of their 
empire. Originally, the Athenian empire had developed out of 
a league of equals. In spite of the temporary predominance of 
Athens, publicly criticized by some of her citizens (cp. Aristo- 
phanes’ Lysutrata), it seems probable that her interest in the 
development of trade would have led, in time, to some kind of 
federal constitution. At least, we know in her case of nothing 
like the Roman method of ‘ transferring ’ the cultural possessions 
from the empire to the dominant city, i.e. of looting. And 
whatever one might say against plutocracy, it is preferable to a 
rule of looters 

This favourable view of Athenian imperialism can be sup- 
ported by comparing it with the Spartan methods of handling 
foreign affairs. They were determined by the ultimate aim that 
dominated Sparta’s policy, by its attempt to arrest all change 
and to return to tribalism. (This is impossible, as I shall con- 
tend later on. Innocence once lost cannot be regained, and 
an artificially arrested closed society, or a cultivated tribalism, 
cannot equal the genuine article.) The principles of Spartan 
policy were these, (i) Protection of its arrested tribalism : shut 
out all foreign influences which might endanger the rigidity 
of tribal taboos. — (2) Anti-humanitarianism : shut out, more 
especially, all equalitarian, democratic, and individualistic 
ideologies. — (3) Autarky : be independent of trade. — (4) Anti- 
universalism or particularism : uphold the differentiation between 
your tribe and ail others ; do not mix with inferiors. — (5) 
Mastery : dominate and enslave your neighbours. — (6) But do 
not become too large : * The city should grow only as long as it 
can do so without impairing its unity ’ and especially, without 
risking the introduction of universaiistic tendencies. — If we 
compare these six principal tendencies with those of modern 
totalitarianism, then we see that they agree fundamentally, with 
the sole exception of the last. The difference can be described 
by saying that modern totalitarianism appears to have imperialist 
tendencies. But this imperialism has no element of a tolerant 
universalism, and the world-wide ambitions of the modem 
totalitarians are imposed upon them, as it were, against their 
will. Two factors are responsible for this. The fir^t is the 
general tendency of all tyrannies to justify their existence by 
saving the state (or the people) from its enemies — a tendency 


which must lead, whenever the old enemies have been success- 
fully subdued, to the creation or invention of new ones. The 
second factor is the attempt to carry into effect the closely related 
points (2) and (5) of the totalitarian programme. Humani- 
tarianism, which, according to point (2), must be kept out, has 
become so universal that, in order to combat it effectively at 
home, it must be destroyed all over the world. But our world 
has become so small that everybody is now a neighbour, so that, 
to carry out point (5), everybody must be dominated and enslaved. 
But in ancient times, nothing could have appeared more danger- 
ous to those who adopted a particularism like Sparta’s, than 
Athenian imperialism, with its inherent tendency to develop into 
a commonwealth of Greek cities, and perhaps even into a uni- 
versal empire of man. 

Summing up our analysis so far, we can say that the political 
and spiritual revolution which had begun with the breakdown 
of Greek tribalism reached its climax in the fifth century, with 
the outbreak of the Peloponnesian war. It had developed into 
a violent class war, and, at the same time, into a war between the 
two leading cities of Greece. 


But how can we explain the fact that outstanding Athenians 
like Thucydides stood on the side of reaction against these new 
developments ? Class interest is, I believe, an insufficient explan- 
ation ; for what we have to explain is the fact that, while many 
of the ambitious young nobles became active, although not always 
reliable, members of the democratic party, some of the most 
thoughtful and gifted resisted its attraction. The main point 
seems to be that although the open society was already in exist- 
ence, although it had, in practice, begun to develop new values, 
new equalitarian standards of life, there was still something miss- 
ing, especially for the ‘ educated The new faith of the open 
society, its only possible faith, humanitarianism, was beginning 
to assert itself, but was not yet formulated. For the time being, 
one could not see much more than class war, the democrats’ fear 
of the oligarchic reaction, and the threat of further revolutionary 
developments. The reaction against these developments had 
therefore much on its side — tradition, the call for defending old 
virtues, and the old religion. These tendencies appealed to the 
feelings of most men, and their popularity gave rise to a movement 
to which, although it was led and used for their own ends by the 

184 the background of Plato’s attack 

Spartans and their oligarchic friends, many upright men must 
have belonged, even at Athens. From the slogan of the move- 
ment, ' Back to the state of our forefathers or ' Back to the old 
paternal state derives the term ‘ patriot It is hardly necessary 
to insist that the beliefs popular among those who supported this 
' patriotic ’ movement were grossly perverted by those oligarchs 
who did not shrink from handing over their own city to the 
enemy, in the hope of gaining support against the democrats. 
Thucydides was one of the representative leaders of this move- 
ment for the ^ paternal state ’ and though he probably did 
not support the treacherous acts of the extreme anti-democrats, 
he could not disguise his sympathies with their fundamental 
aim — to arrest social change, and to fight the universalistic 
imperialism of the Athenian democracy and the instruments and 
symbols of its power, the navy, the walls, and commerce. (In 
view of Plato’s doctrines concerning commerce, it may be inter- 
esting to note how great the fear of commerciahsm was. When 
after his victory over Athens in 404 b.c. the Spartan king, 
Lysander, returned with great booty, the Spartan ‘ patriots i.e. 
the members of the movement for the ‘ paternal state tried to 
prevent the import of gold ; and though it was ultimately 
admitted, its possession was limited to the state, and capital 
punishment w^as imposed on any citizen found in possession of 
precious metals. In Plato’s Laws^ very similar procedures are 

Although the * patriotic ’ movement was partly the expression 
of the longing to return to more stable forms of life, to religion, 
decency, law and order, it was itself morally rotten. Its ancient 
faith was lost, and was largely replaced by a hypocritical and 
even cynical exploitation of religious sentiments.^® Nihilism, as 
painted by Plato in the portraits of Callicles and Thrasymachus, 
could be found if anywhere among the young * patriotic ’ aristo- 
crats who, if given the opportunity, became leaders of the demo- 
cratic party. The clearest exponent of this nihilism was perhaps 
the oligarchic leader who helped to deal the death-blow at Athens, 
Plato’s uncle Critias, the leader of the Thirty Tyrants.^® 

But at this time, in the same generation to which Thucydides 
belonged, there rose a new faith in reason, freedom and the 
brotherhood of all men — the new faith, and, as I believe, the 
only possible faith, of the open society. 




This generation which marks a turning point in the history 
of mankind, I should like to call the Great Generation ; it is 
the generation which lived in Athens just before, and during, the 
Peloponnesian war.^'^ There were great conser\^atives among 
them, like Sophocles, or Thucydides. There were men among 
them who represent the period of transition ; who were wavering, 
like Euripides, or sceptical, like Aristophanes- But there was also 
the great leader of democracy, Pericles, who formulated the 
principle of equality before the law and of political individualism, 
and Herodotus, who was welcomed and hailed in Pericles’ city as 
the author of a work that glorified these principles. Protagoras, 
a native of Abdera who became influential in Athens, and 
his countryman Democritus must also be counted among the 
Great Generation. They formulated the doctrine that human 
institutions of language, custom, and law are not of the magical 
character of taboos but man-made, not natural but conventional, 
insisting, at the same time, that we are responsible for them. 
Then there was the school of Gorgias — ^Alcidamas, Lycophron 
and Antisthenes, who developed the fundamental tenets of anti- 
slavery, of a rational protectionism, and of anti-nationalism, i.e. 
the creed of the universal empire of men. And there was, per- 
haps the greatest of all, Socrates, who taught the lesson that we 
must have faith in human reason, but at the same time beware 
of dogmatism ; that we must keep away both from misology 
the distrust of theory and of reason, and from the magical attitude 
of those who make an idol of wisdom ; who taught, in other 
words, that the spirit of science is criticism. 

Since I have not so far said much about Pericles, and nothing 
at all about Democritus, I may use some of their own words in 
order to illustrate the new faith. First Democritus : * Not out 
of fear but out of a feeling of what is right should we abstain 
from doing wrong. . , Virtue is based, most of all, upon 
respecting the other man. . . Every man is a little world of his 
own. . . We ought to do our utmost to help those who have 
suffered injustice. . . To be good means to do no wrong ; and 
also, not to want to do wrong. • . It is good deeds, not words, 
that count. . . The poverty of a democracy is better than the 
prosperity which allegedly goes with aristocracy or monarchy, 
just as liberty is better than slavery. , . The wise man belongs 
to all countries, for the home of a great soul is the whole world/ 


To him is due also that remark of a true scientist : ‘ I would 
rather find a single causal law than be the king of Persia ! ’ 

In their humanitarian and universalistic emphasis some of 
these fragments of Democritus soundj, although they are of earlier 
date, as if they were directed against Plato. The same impres- 
sion is conveyed, only much more strongly, by Pericles’ famous 
funeral oration, delivered at least half a century before the 
Republic was written. I have quoted two sentences from this 
oration in chapter 6, when discussing equalitarianism but a few 
passages may be quoted here more fully in order to give a clearer 
impression of its spirit. * Our political system does not compete 
with institutions which are elsewhere in force. We do not copy 
our neighbours, but tr^^' to be an example. Our administration 
favours the many instead of the few : this is why it is called a 
democracy. The laws afford equal justice to all alike in their 
private disputes, but we do not ignore the claims of excellence. 
When a citizen distinguishes himself, then he will be called to 
serve the state, in preference to others, not as a matter of privi- 
lege, but as a reward of merit ; and poverty is no bar. . . The 
freedom %ve enjoy extends also to ordinary life ; we are not sus- 
picious of one another, and do not nag our neighbour if he 
chooses to go his own way. , . But this freedom does not make us 
lawless. We are taught to respect the magistrates and the laws, 
and never to forget that we must protect the injured. And we 
are also taught to observe those unwritten laws whose sanction 
lies only in the universal feeling of what is right. . . 

‘ Our city is thrown open to the world ; we never expel a 
foreigner. . . We are free to live exactly as we please, and yet 
we are always ready to face any danger. , . We love beauty 
without indulging in fancies, and although w^e try to improve our 
intellect, this does not weaken our will. . . To admit one’s 
poverty is no disgrace with us ; but we consider it disgraceful 
not to make an effort to avoid it. An Athenian citizen does not 
neglect public affairs when attending to his private business. . . 
We consider a man who takes no interest in the state not as 
harmless, but as useless ; and although only a few may originate a 
polity y we are all able to judge it We do not look upon discussion 
as a stumbling-block in the way of political action, but as an 
indispensable preliminary to acting wisely. . . We believe that 
happiness is the fruit of freedom and freedom that of valour, and 
we do not shrink from the dangers of war. . . To sum up, I 
claim that Athens is the School of Hellas, and that the individual 


Athenian grows up to develop a happy versatility, a readiness for 
emergencies, and self-reliance.’ 

These words are not merely an eulogy on Athens ; they 
express the true spirit of the Great Generation. They formulate 
the political programme of a great equalitarian individualist, of 
a democrat who well understands that democracy cannot be 
exhausted by the meaningless principle that ‘ the people should 
rule but that it must be based on faith in reason, and on humani- 
tarianism. At the same time, they are an expression of true 
patriotism, of just pride in a city which had made it its task to 
set an example ; which became the school, not only of Hellas, 
but, as we know, of mankind, for millennia past and yet to come. 

Pericles’ speech is not only a programme. It is also a defence, 
and perhaps even an attack. It reads, as I have already hinted, 
like a direct attack on Plato. I do not doubt that it was directed, 
not only against the arrested tribalism of Sparta, but also against 
the totalitarian ring or ‘ link ’ at home ; against the movement 
for the paternal state, the Athenian * Society of the Friends of 
Laconia ’ (as Th. Gomperz called them in 1902 The speech 
is the earliest and at the same time perhaps the strongest 
statement ever made in opposition to this kind of movement. Its 
importance was felt by Plato, who caricatured Pericles’ oration 
half a century later in the passages of the Republic in which he 
attacks democracy, as well as in that undisguised parody, the 
dialogue called Menexenus or the Funeral Oration But the friends 
of Laconia whom Pericles attacked retaliated long before Plato, 
Only five or six years after Pericles’ oration, a pamphlet on the 
Constitution of Athens was published by an unknown author 
(possibly Critias), now usually called the ^ Old Oligarch This 
ingenious pamphlet, the oldest extant treatise on political theory, 
is, at the same time, perhaps the oldest monument of the desertion 
of mankind by its intellectual leaders. It is a ruthless attack 
upon Athens, written no doubt by one of her best brains. Its 
central idea, an idea which became an article of faith with 
Thucydides and Plato, is the close connection between naval 
imperialism and democracy. And it tries to show that there 
can be no compromise in a conflict between two worlds the 
worlds of democracy and of oligarchy ; that only the use of 
ruthless violence, of total measures, including the interv^ention of 
allies from outside (the Spartans), can put an end to the unholy 
rule of freedom. This remarkable pamphlet was to become the 
first of a practically infinite sequence of works on political 

1 88 


philosophy which were to repeat more or less, openly or covertly, 
the same theme down to our own day. Unwilling and unable to 
help mankind along their difficult path into an unknown future 
which they have to create for themselves, some of the ‘ educated ’ 
tried to make them turn back into the past. Incapable of lead- 
ing a new way, they could only make themselves leaders of the 
perennial revolt against freedom. It became the more necessary for 
them to assert their superiority by fighting against equality as 
they w^ere (using Socratic language) misanthropists and miso- 
legists — incapable of that simple and ordinary generosity 
which inspires faith in men, and faith in human reason and 
freedom. Harsh as this judgement may sound, it is just, I fear, 
if it is applied to those intellectual leaders of the revolt against 
freedom who came after the Great Generation, and especially 
after Socrates. We can now try to see them against the back- 
ground of our historical interpretation. 

The rise of philosophy itself can be interpreted, I think, as a 
response to the breakdown of the closed society and its magical 
beliefs. It is an attempt to replace the lost magical faith by a 
rational faith ; it modifies the tradition of passing on a theory 
or a myth by founding a new tradition — the tradition of challeng- 
ing theories and myths and of critically discussing them (A 
significant point is that this attempt coincides with the spread 
of the so-called Orphic sects whose members tried to replace the 
lost feeling of unity by a new mystical religion.) The earliest 
philosophers, the three great lonians and Pythagoras, were prob- 
ably quite unaware of the stimulus to which they were reacting. 
They were the representatives as well as the unconscious antagon- 
ists of a social revolution. The very fact that they founded 
schools or sects or orders, i.e. new social institutions or rather 
concrete groups with a common life and common functions, and 
modelled largely after those of an idealized tribe, proves that they 
were reformers in the social field, and therefore, that they were 
reacting to certain social needs. That they reacted to these needs 
and to their own sense of drift, not by imitating Hesiod in invent- 
ing a historicist m^'th of destiny and decay but by inventing 
the tradition of criticism and discussion, and with it the art of 
thinking rationally, is one of the inexplicable facts which stand 
at the beginning of our civilization. But even these rationalists 
reacted to the loss of the unity of tribalism in a largely emotional 
way. Their reasoning gives expression to their feeling of drift, 
to the strain of a development which was about to create our 


individualistic civilization. One of the oldest expressions of this 
strain goes back to Anaximander ^^3 the second of the Ionian 
philosophers. Individual existence appeared to him as hubris, 
as an impious act of injustice, as a wrongful act of usurpation, 
for which individuals must suffer, and do penance. The first 
to become conscious of the social revolution and the struggle of 
classes was Heraclitus. How he rationalized his feeling of drift 
by developing the first anti-democratic ideology and the first 
historicist philosophy of change and destiny, has been described 
in the second chapter of this book. Heraclitus was the first 
conscious enemy of the open society. 

Nearly all these early thinkers were labouring under a tragic 
and desperate strain The only exception is perhaps the 
monotheist Xenophanes who carried his burden courageously. 
We cannot blame them for their hostility towards the new develop- 
ments in the way in which we may, to some extent, blame their 
successors. The new faith of the open society, the faith in man, 
in equalitarian justice, and in human reason, was perhaps begin- 
ning to take shape, but it was not yet formulated. 


The greatest contribution to this faith was to be made by 
Socrates, who died for it. Socrates was not a leader of Athenian 
democracy, like Pericles, or a theorist of the open society, like 
Protagoras. He was, rather, a critic of Athens and of her demo- 
cratic institutions, and in this he may have borne a superficial 
resemblance to some of the leaders of the reaction against the open 
society. But there is no need for a man who criticizes democracy 
and democratic institutions to be their enemy, although both the 
democrats he criticizes, and the totalitarians who hope to profit 
from any disunion in the democratic camp, are likely to brand 
him as such. There is a fundamental difference between a 
democratic and a totalitarian criticism of democracy. Socrates" 
criticism was a democratic one, and indeed of the kind that is the 
very life of democracy. (Democrats who do not see the differ- 
ence between a friendly and a hostile criticism of democracy are 
themselves imbued with the totalitarian spirit. Totalitarianism, 
of course, cannot consider any criticism as friendly, since every 
criticism of such an authority must challenge the principle of 
authority itself.) 

I have already mentioned some aspects of Socrates" teaching : 
his intellectualism, i.e. his equalitarian theory of human reason 


as a universal medium of communication ; his stress on intel- 
lectual honesty and self-criticism ; his equalitarian theory of 
justice, and his doctrine that it is better to be a victim of injustice 
than to inflict it upon others. I think it is this last doctrine which 
can help us best to understand the core of his teaching, his creed 
of individualism, his belief in the human individual as an end in 

The closed society, and with it its creed that the tribe is 
everything and the individual nothing, had broken down. 
Individual initiative and self-assertion had become a fact. 
Interest in the human individual as individual, and not only as 
tribal hero and saviour, had been aroused But a philosophy 
which makes man the centre of its interest began only with 
Protagoras. And the belief that there is nothing more important 
in our life than other individual men, the appeal to men to 
respect one another and themselves, appears to be due to 

Burnet has stressed that it was Socrates who created the 
conception of the soul, a conception which had such an immense 
influence upon our civilization. I believe that there is much in 
this view, although I feel that its formulation may be misleading, 
especially the use of the term ^ soul ’ ; for Socrates seems to have 
kept away from metaphysical theories as much as he could. His 
appeal was a moral appeal, and his theory of individuality (or 
of the ‘ soul if this word is preferred) is, I think, a moral and 
not a metaphysical doctrine. He was fighting, with the help of 
this doctrine, as always, against self-satisfaction and complacency. 
He demanded that individualism should not be merely the disso- 
lution of tribalism, but that the individual should prove worthy 
of his liberation. This is why he insisted that man is not merely 
a piece of flesh — a body. There is more in man, a divine spark, 
reason ; and a love of truth, of kindness, humaneness, a love of 
beauty and of goodness. It is these that make a man’s life worth 
while. But if I am not merely a ‘ body what am I, then ? 
You are, first of all, intelligence, was Socrates’ reply. It is your 
reason that makes you human ; that enables you to be more 
than a mere bundle of desires and wishes ; that makes you a 
self-sufficient individual and entitles you to claim that you are 
an end in yourself. Socrates’ saying ‘ care for your souls ’ is 
largely an appeal for intellectual honesty, just as the saying ' know 
thyself’ is used by him to remind us of our intellectual limitations. 

These, Socrates insisted, are the things that matter. And 


what he criticized in democracy and democratic statesmen was 
their inadequate realization of these things. He criticized them 
rightly for their lack of intellectual honesty, and for their obsession 
with power-politics With liis emphasis upon the human side 
of the political problem, he could not take much interest in 
institutional reform. It was the immediate, the personal aspect 
of the open society in which he was interested. He was mistaken 
when he considered himself a politician ; he was a teacher. 

But if Socrates was, fundamentally, the champion of the open 
society, and a friend of democracy, why, it may be asked, did he 
mix with anti-democrats ? For we know that among his com- 
panions were not only Alcibiades, who for a time went over to 
the side of Sparta, but also two of Plato’s uncles, Critias who 
later became the ruthless leader of the Thirty Tyrants, and 
Charmides who became his lieutenant. 

There is more than one reply to this question. First we are 
told by Plato that Socrates’ attack upon the democratic politicians 
of his time was carried out partly with the purpose of exposing 
the selfishness and lust for power of the hypocritical flatterers of 
the people, more particularly, of the young aristocrats who posed 
as democrats, but who looked upon the people as mere instruments 
of their lust for power This activity made him, on the one 
hand, attractive to some at least of the enemies of democracy ; 
on the other hand it brought him into contact with ambitious 
aristocrats of that very type. And here enters a second consider- 
ation. Socrates, the moralist and individualist, would never 
merely attack these men. He would, rather, take a real interest 
in them, and he would hardly give them up without making a 
serious attempt to convert them. There are many allusions to 
such attempts in Plato’s dialogues. We have reason, and this 
is a third consideration, to believe that Socrates, the teacher- 
politician, even went out of his way to attract young men and 
to gain influence over them, especially when he considered them 
open to conversion, and thought that some day they might possibly 
hold offices of responsibility in their city. The outstanding 
example is, of course, Alcibiades, singled out from Im very 
childhood as the great future leader of the Athenian empire. 
And Critias’ brilliancy, ambition and courage made him one 
of the few likely competitors of Alcibiades. (He co-operated 
with Alcibiades for a time, but later turned against him. It is 
not at all improbable that the temporary co-operation was due 
to Socrates’ influence.) From all we know about Plato’s own 



early and later political aspirations, it is more than likely that 
his relations with Socrates were of a similar kind Socrates, 
though one of the leading spirits of the open society, was not a 
party man. He would have worked in any circle where his work 
might have benefited his city. If he took interest in a promising 
youth he was not to be deterred by oligarchic family connections. 

But these connections were to cause his death. When the 
great war was lost, Socrates was accused of having educated the 
men who had betrayed democracy and conspired with the enemy 
to bring about the downfall of Athens. 

The history of the Peloponnesian war and the fall of Athens is 
still often told, under the influence of Thucydides’ authority, in 
such a way that the defeat of Athens appears as the ultimate 
proof of the moral weaknesses of the democratic system. But 
this view is merely a tendentious distortion, and the well-known 
facts tell a very different story. The main responsibility for the 
lost war rests with the treacherous oligarchs who continuously 
conspired with Sparta. Prominent among these were three 
former disciples of Socrates, Alcibiades, Critias, and Charmides. 
After the fall of Athens in 404 b.g. the two latter became the 
leaders of the Thirty Tyrants, who were no more than a puppet 
government under Spartan protection. The fall of Athens, and 
the destruction of the walls, are often presented as the final 
results of the great war which had started in 431 b.g. But in 
this presentation lies a major distortion ; for the democrats fought 
on. At first only seventy strong, they prepared under the leader- 
ship of Thrasybulus and Anytus the liberation of Athens, where 
Critias was meanwhile killing scores of citizens ; during the 
eight months of his reign of terror the death-roll contained 
^ rather a greater number of Athenians than the Peloponnesians 
had killed during the last ten years of war ’ But after eight 
months (in 403 b.g.) Critias and the Spartan garrison were 
attacked and defeated by the democrats, who established them- 
selves in the Piraeus, and both of Plato’s uncles lost their lives 
in the battle. Their oligarchic followers continued for a time 
the reign of terror in the city of Athens itself, but their forces 
were in a state of confusion and dissolution. Having proved 
themselves incapable of ruling, they were ultimately abandoned 
by their Spartan protectors, who concluded a treaty with the 
democrats. The peace re-established democracy in Athens. 
Thus the democratic form of government had proved its 
superior strength under the most severe trials, and even its enemies 



began to think it invincible. (Nine years later, after the battle 
of Cnidus, the Athenians could re-erect their walls. The defeat 
of democracy had turned into victory.) 

As soon as the restored democracy had re-established normal 
legal conditions a case was brought against Socrates. Its 
meaning was clear enough ; he was accused of having had his 
hand in the education of the most pernicious enemies of the state, 
Alcibiades, Critias, and Charmides. Certain difficulties for the 
prosecution were created by an amnesty for all political crimes 
committed before the re-establishment of the democracy. The 
charge could not therefore openly refer to these notorious cases. 
And the prosecutors probably sought not so much to punish 
Socrates for the unfortunate political events of the past which, as 
they knew well, had happened against his intentions ; their aim^ 
was, rather, to prevent him from continuing his teaching, which, 
in view of its effects, they could hardly regard otherwise than as 
dangerous to the state. For all these reasons, the charge was 
given the vague and rather meaningless form that Socrates was 
corrupting the youth, that he was impious, and that he had 
attempted to introduce novel religious practices into the state. 
(The latter two charges undoubtedly expressed, however clumsily, 
the correct feeling that in the ethico-religious field he was a 
revolutionary.) Because of the amnesty, the ‘ corrupted youth ’ 
could not be more precisely named, but everybody knew, of 
course, who was meant In his defence, Socrates insisted that 
he had no sympathy with the policy of the Thirty, and that he 
had actually risked his life by defying their attempt to implicate 
him in one of their crimes. And he reminded the jury that 
among his closest associates and most enthusiastic disciples there 
was at least one ardent democrat, Chaerephon, who fought 
against the Thirty (and who was, it appears, killed in battle) 

It is now usually recognized that Anytus, the democratic 
leader who backed the prosecution, did not intend to make a 
martyr of Socrates. The aim was to exile him. But this plan 
was defeated by Socrates’ refusal to compromise his principles. 
That he wanted to die, or that he enjoyed the role of martyr, I 
do not believe He simply fought for what he believed to be 
right, and for his life’s work. He had never intended to under- 
mine democracy. In fact, he had tried to give it the faith it 
needed. This had been the work of his life. It was, he felt, 
seriously threatened. The betrayal of his former companions 
let his work and himself appear in a light which must have 



disturbed him deeply. He may even have welcomed the trial 
as an opportunity to prove that his loyalty to his city was 

Socrates explained this attitude most carefully when he was 
given an opportunity to escape. Had he seized it, and become 
an exile, everybody would have thought him an opponent of 
democracy. So he stayed, and stated his reasons. This explana- 
tion, his last will, can be found in Plato’s Crito It is simple. 
If I go, said Socrates, I violate the laws of the state. Such an 
act would put me in opposition to the laws, and prove my 
disloyalty. It would do harm to the state. Only if I stay can 
I put beyond doubt my loyalty to the state, with its democratic 
laws, and prove that I have never been its enemy. There can 
be no better proof of my loyalty than my willingness to die for it. 

Socrates’ death is the ultimate proof of his sincerity. His 
fearlessness, his simplicity, his modesty, his sense of proportion, 
his humour never deserted him. * I am the gadfly that God 
has attached to this city % he said in his Apology^ ^ and all day 
long and in all places I am always fastening upon you, arousing 
and persuading and reproaching you. You would not readily 
find another like me, and therefore I should advise you to spare 
me . . If you strike at me, as Anytus advises you, and rashly 
put me to death, then you will r-emain asleep for the rest of your 
lives, unless God in his care sends you another gadfly ’ He 
showed that a man could die, not only for fate and fame and other 
grand things of this kind, but also for the freedom of critical 
thought, and for a self-respect which has nothing to do with 
self-importance or sentimentality. 


Socrates had only one worthy successor, his old friend 
Antisthenes, the last of the Great Generation. Plato, his most 
gifted disciple, was soon to prove the least faithful. He betrayed 
Socrates, just as his uncles had done. These, besides betraying 
^ Socrates, had also tried to implicate him in their terrorist acts, 
but they did not succeed, since he resisted. Plato tried to 
implicate Socrates in his grandiose attempt to construct the theory 
of the arrested society ; and he had no difficulty in succeeding, 
for Socrates was dead. 

I know of course that this judgement will seem outrageously 
harsh, even to those who are critical of Plato But if we look 
upon the Apology and the Criio as Socrates’ last will, and if we 



compare these testaments of his old age with Plato’s testament, 
the Laws, then it is difficult to judge otherwise. Socrates had been 
condemned, but his death was not intended by the initiators of 
the trial. Plato’s Laws remedy this lack of intention. Here he 
elaborates coolly and carefully the theory of inquisition. Free 
thought, criticism of political institutions, teaching new ideas to 
the young, attempts to introduce new religious practices or even 
opinions, are all pronounced capital crimes. In Plato’s state, 
Socrates might have never been given the opportunity of defend- 
ing himself publicly ; and he certainly would have been handed 
over to the secret Nocturnal Council for the purpose of ' attend- 
ing ’ to his diseased soul, and finally for punishing it. 

I cannot doubt the fact of Plato’s betrayal, nor that his use 
of Socrates as the main speaker of the Republic was the most 
successful attempt to implicate him. But it is another question 
whether this attempt was conscious. 

In order to understand Plato we must visualize the whole 
contemporary situation. After the Peloponnesian war, the strain 
of civilization was felt as strongly as ever. The old oligarchic 
hopes were still alive, and the defeat of Athens had even tended 
to encourage them. The class struggle continued. Yet Critias’ 
attempt to destroy democracy by carrying out the programme of 
the Old Oligarch had failed. It had not failed through lack of 
determination ; the most ruthless use of violence had been 
unsuccessful, in spite of favourable circumstances in the shape 
of powerful support from victorious Sparta. Plato felt that a 
complete reconstruction of the programme was needed. The 
Thirty had been beaten in the realm of power politics largely 
because they had offended the citizens’ sense of justice. The 
defeat had been largely a moral defeat. The faith of the Great 
Generation had proved its strength. The Thirty had nothing 
of this kind to offer ; they were moral nihilists. The programme 
of the Old Oligarch, Plato felt, could not be revived without 
basing it upon another faith, upon a persuasion which re-affirmed 
the old values of tribalism, opposing them to the faith of the open 
society. Men must be taught that justice is inequality, and that the 
tribe, the collective, stands higher than the individual But 
since Socrates’ faith was too strong to be challenged openly, Plato 
was driven to re-interpret it as a faith in the closed society. This 
was difficult ; but it was not impossible. For had not Socrates 
been killed by the democracy? Had not democracy lost any 
right to claim him? And had not Socrates always criticized 


the anonymous multitude as well as its leaders for their lack of 
wisdom ? It was not so very difficult, moreover, to re-interpret 
Socrates as having recommended the rule of the ® educated 
the learned philosophers. In this interpretation, Plato was much 
encouraged when he discovered that it was also part of the 
ancient Pythagorean creed ; and most of all, when he found, in 
Archytas of Tarentum, a Pythagorean sage as well as a great 
and successful statesman. Here, he felt, was the solution of the 
riddle. Had not Socrates himself encouraged his disciples to 
participate in politics ? Did this not mean that he wanted the 
enlightened, the wise, to rule ? What a difference between the 
crudity of the ruling mob of Athens and the dignity of an 
Archytas ! Surely Socrates, who had never stated his solution of 
the constitutional problem, must have had Pythagoreanism in 

In this way Plato may have found that it was possible to give 
by degrees a new meaning to the teaching of the most influential 
member of the Great Generation, and to persuade himself that 
an opponent whose overwhelming strength he would never have 
dared to attack directly, was an ally. This, I believe, is the 
simplest interpretation of the fact that Plato retained Socrates 
as his main speaker even after he had departed so widely from 
his teaching that he could no longer deceive himself about this 
deviation But it is not the whole story. He felt, I believe, 
in the depth of his soul, that Socrates’ teaching was very different 
indeed from this presentation, and that he was betraying Socrates. 
And I think that Plato’s continuous efforts to make Socrates 
re-interpret himself are at the same time Plato’s efforts to quiet 
his own bad conscience. By trying again and again to prove that 
his teaching was only the logical development of the true Socratic 
doctrine, he tried to persuade himself that he was not a traitor. 

In reading Plato we are, I feel, witnesses of an inner conflict, 
of a truly titanic struggle in Plato’s mind. Even his famous 
‘ fastidious reserve, the suppression of his own personality ’ or 
rather, the attempted suppression — for it is not at all difficult to 
read between the lines — ^is an expression of this struggle. And 
I believe that Plato’s influence can partly be explained by the 
fascination of this conflict between two worlds in one soul, a 
struggle whose powerful repercussions upon Plato can be felt 
under that surface of fastidious reserve. This struggle touches 
our feelings, for it is still going on within ourselves. Plato was 
the child of a time which is still our own. (We must not forget 



that it is, after all, only a century since the abolition of slavery 
in the United States, and even less since the abolition of serfdom 
in Central Europe.) Nowhere does this inner struggle reveal 
itself more clearly than in Plato’s theory of the soul. That Plato, 
with his longing for unity and harmony, visualized the structure 
of the human soul as analogous to that of a class-divided society 
shows how deeply he must have suffered. 

Plato’s greatest conflict arises from the deep impression made 
upon him by the example of Socrates, but his own oligarchic 
inclinations strive Only too successfully against it. In the field 
of rational argument, the struggle is conducted by using the 
argument of Socrates’ humanitarianism against itself. What 
appears to be the earliest example of this kind can be found in 
the Euthyphro I am not going to be like Euthyphro, Plato 
assures himself ; I shall never take it upon myself to accuse my 
own father, my own venerated ancestors, of having sinned against 
a law and a humanitarian morality which is on the level of 
vulgar piety. Even if they took human life, it was, after all, only 
the lives of their own serfs, who are no better than criminals ; and 
it is not my task to judge them. Did not Socrates show how hard 
it is to know what is right and wrong, pious and impious ? And 
was he not himself prosecuted for impiety by these so-called 
humanitarians ? Other traces of Plato’s struggle can, I believe, 
be found in nearly every place where he turns against humani- 
tarian ideas, especially in the Republic. His evasiveness and his 
resort to scorn in combating the equalitarian theory of justice, 
his hesitant preface to his defence of lying, to his introduction of 
racialism, and to his definition of justice, have all been mentioned 
in previous chapters. But perhaps the clearest expression of the 
conflict can be found in the Menexenus^ that sneering reply to 
Pericles’ funeral oration. Here, I feel, Plato gives himself away. 
In spite of his attempt to hide his feelings behind irony and scorn, 
he cannot but show how deeply he was impressed by Pericles’ 
sentiments. This is how Plato makes his ‘ Socrates ’ maliciously 
describe the impression made upon him by Pericles’ oration : 
‘ A feeling of exultation stays with me for more than three days ; 
not until the fourth or fifth day, and not without an effort, do 
I come to my senses and realize where I am.’ Who can doubt 
that Plato reveals here how seriously he was impressed by the 
creed of the open society, and how hard he had to struggle to 
come to his senses and to realize where he was — namely, in the 
camp of its enemies. 




Plato’s strongest argument in this struggle was, I believe, 
sincere : According to the humanitarian creed, he argued, we 
should be ready to help our neighbours. The people need help 
badly, they are unhappy, they labour under a severe strain, a 
sense of drift. There is no certainty, no security in life, when 
everything is in fiux. I am ready to help them. But I cannot 
make them happy without going to the root of the evil. 

And he found the root of the evil. It is the ‘ Fall of Man 
the breakdown of the closed society. This discovery convinced 
him that the Old Oligarch and his followers had been funda- 
mentally right in favouring Sparta against Athens, and in aping 
the Spartan programme of arresting change. But they had not 
gone far enough ; their analysis had not been carried sufficiently 
deep. They had not been aware of the fact, or had not cared 
for it, that even Sparta showed signs of decay, in spite of its 
heroic effort to arrest all change ; that even Sparta had been 
half-hearted in her attempts at controlling breeding in order to 
eliminate the causes of the Fall, the ^ variations ’ and ‘ irregu- 
larities ’ in the number as well as the quality of the ruling race 
(Plato realized that population increase was one of the causes of 
the Fall.) Also, the Old Oligarch and his followers had thought, 
in their superficiality, that with the help of a tyranny, such as 
that of the Thirty, they would be able to restore the good old 
days. Plato knew better. The great sociologist saw clearly that 
these tyrannies were supported by, and that they were kindling 
in their turn, the modern revolutionary spirit ; that they were 
forced to make concessions to the equalitarian cravings of the 
people ; and that they had indeed played an important part in 
the breakdown of tribalism. Plato h ated tyranny. Only hatred 
can see as sharply as he did in his famous description of the tyrant. 
Only a genuine enemy of tyranny could say that tyrants must 
* stir up one war after another in order to make the people feel 
the need of a general ’ , of a saviour from extreme danger. 
Tyranny, Plato insisted, was not the solution, nor any of the 
current oligarchies. Although it is imperative to keep the 
people in their place, their suppression is not an end in itself. 
The end must be the complete return to nature, a complete 
cleaning of the canvas. 

The difference between Plato’s theory on the one hand, and 
that of the Old Oligarch and the Thirty on the other, is due to 



the influence of the Great Generation. Individualism, equaii- 
tarianism, faith in reason and love of freedom were new, powerful, 
and, from the point of view of the enemies of the open society, 
dangerous sentiments that had to be fought. Plato had himself 
felt their influence, and, within himself, he had fought them. 
His answer to the Great Generation was a truly great effort. 
It was an effort to close the door which had been opened, and 
to arrest society by casting upon it the spell of an alluring 
philosophy, unequalled in depth and richness. In the political 
field he added but little to the old oligarchic programme against 
which Pericles had once argued But he discovered, per- 
haps unconsciously, the great secret of the revolt against freedom, 
formulated in our own day by Pareto ^ To take advantage 
of sentiments^ not wasting one^s energies in futile efforts to destroy tkemJ 
Instead of showing his hostility to reason, he charmed all intel- 
lectuals with his brilliance, flattering and thrilling them by his 
demand that the learned should rule. Although arguing against 
justice he convinced all righteous men that he was its advocate. 
Not even to himself did he fully admit that he was combating 
the freedom of thought for which Socrates had died ; and by 
making Socrates his champion he persuaded all others that he 
was fighting for it. Plato thus became, unconsciously, the pioneer 
of the many propagandists who, often in good faith, developed 
the technique of appealing to moral, humanitarian sentiments, 
for anti-humanitarian, immoral purposes. And he achieved the 
somewhat surprising effect of convincing even great humani- 
tarians of the immorality and selfishness of their creed I do 
not doubt that he succeeded in persuading himself. He trans- 
figured his hatred of individual initiative, and his wish to arrest 
all change, into a love of justice and temperance, of a heavenly 
state in which everybody is satisfied and happy and in which the 
crudity of money-grabbing is replaced by laws of generosity 
and friendship. This dream of unity and beauty and perfection, 
this sestheticism and holism and collectivism, is the product as 
well as the symptom of the lost group spirit of tribalism It 
is the expression of, and an ardent appeal to, the sentiments of 
those who suffer from the strain of civilization. (It is part of the 
strain that we are becoming more and more painfully aware of 
the gross imperfections in our life, of personal as well as of institu- 
tional imperfection ; of avoidable suffering, of waste and of 
unnecessary ugliness ; and at the same time of the fact that it it 
not impossible for us to do something about all this, but that 



such improvements would be just as hard to achieve as they are 
important. This awareness increases the strain of personal 
responsibility, of carrying the cross of being human.) 


Socrates had refused to compromise his personal integrity. 
Plato, with all his uncompromising canvas- cleaning, was led 
along a path on which he compromised his integrity with every 
step he took. He was forced to combat free thought, and the 
pursuit of truth. He was led to defend lying, political miracles, 
tabooistic superstition, the suppression of truth, and ultimately, 
brutal violence. In spite of Socrates’ warning against mis- 
anthropy and misology, he was led to distrust man and to fear 
argument. In spite of his own hatred of tyranny, he was led 
to look to a tyrant for help, and to defend the most tyrannical 
measures. By the internal logic of his anti-humanitarian aim, 
the internal logic of power, he was led unawares to the same 
point to which once the Thirty had been led, and at which, later, 
his friend Dio arrived, and others among his numerous tyrant- 
disciples He did not succeed in arresting social change. 
(Only much later, in the dark ages, was it arrested by the magic 
spell of the Platonic-Aristotelian essentialism.) Instead, he suc- 
ceeded in binding himself, by his own spell, to powers which 
once he had hated. 

The lesson which we thus should learn from Plato is the exact 
opposite of what he tries to teach us. It is a lesson which must 
not be forgotten. Excellent as Plato’s sociological diagnosis was, 
his own development proves that the therapy he recommended 
is worse than the evil he tried to combat. Arresting political 
change is not the remedy ; it cannot bring happiness. We can 
never return to the alleged innocence and beauty of the closed 
society Our dream of heaven cannot be realized on earth. 
Once we begin to rely upon our reason, and to use our powers 
of criticism, once we feel the call of personal responsibilities, and 
with it, the responsibility of helping to advance knowledge, we 
cannot return to* a state of implicit submission to tribal magic. 
For those who have eaten of the tree of knowledge, paradise 
is lost. The more we try to return to the heroic age of tribalism, 
the more surely do we arrive at the Inquisition, at the Secret 
Police, and at a romanticized gangsterism. Beginning with the 
suppression of reason and truth, we must end with the most brutal 
and violent destruction of all that is human There is no return 


to a harmonious state of nature. If we turn back^ then we must go the 
whole way — we must return to the beasts. 

It is an issue which we must face squarely, hard though it 
may be for us to do so. If we dream of a return to our child- 
hood, if we are tempted to rely on others and so be happy, if 
we shrink from the task of carrying our cross, the cross of 
humaneness, of reason, of responsibility, if we lose courage and 
flinch from the strain, then we must try to fortify ourselves with 
a clear understanding of the simple decision before us. We can 
return to the beasts. But if we wish to remain human, then 
there is only one way, the way into the open society. We must 
go on into the unknown, the uncertain and insecure, using what 
reason we may have to plan as well as we can for both security 
and freedom. 


Gener.\l Remarks. The text of the book is self-contained and may be 
read without these Notes. However, a considerable amount of material 
which IS likely to interest ail readers of the book will be found here, as well 
as some references and controversies which may not be of general interest. 
Readers who wish to consult the notes for the sake of this material may find 
it convenient first to read without interruption through the text of a chapter, 
and then to turn to the Notes. 

I wish to apologize for the perhaps excessive number of cross references 
which have been included for the benefit of those readers who take a special 
interest in one or other of the side issues touched upon (such as Plato’s 
preoccupation with racialism, or the Socratic Problem). Knowing that war 
conditions would make it impossible for me to read the proofs, I decided 
to refer not to pages but to note numbers. Accordingly, references to the 
text have been indicated by notes such as : ‘ cp. text to note 24 to chapter 3 
etc. War conditions also restricted library facilities, making it impossible for 
me to obtain a number of books, some recent and some not, which would 
have been consulted in normal circumstances. 

* Notes which make use of material which was not available to me when 
writing the manuscript for the first edition of this book (and other notes 
which I wish to characterize as having been added to the book since 1943) 
are enclosed by asterisks ; not all new additions to the notes have, however, 
been so marked.* 


For Kant’s motto, see note 41 to chapter 24, and text. 

The terms ‘ open society ’ and ‘ closed society ’ were first used, to my know- 
ledge, by Henri Bergson, in Two Sources of Alorahiy and Religion (Engl, ed., 
^935)* spite of a considerable difference (due to a fundamentally 
different approach to nearly every problem of philosophy) between Bergson’s 
way of using these terms and mine, there is a certain similarity also, which 
I wish to acknowledge. (Cp. Bergson’s characterization of the closed society, 
op. ciL, p. 220, as ‘ human society fresh from the hands of nature ’.) The 
main difference, how^ever, is this. My terms indicate, as it were, a 
rationalist distinction ; the closed society is characterized by the belief in 
magical taboos, while the open society is one in which men have learned to 
be to some extent critical of taboos, and to base decisions on the authority of 
their own intelligence (after discussion), Bergson, on the other hand, has a 
kind of religious distinction m mind. This explains why he can look upon 
his open society as the product of a mystical intuition, while I suggest (in 
chapters 10 and 24) that mysticism may be interpreted as an expression of 
the longing for the lost unity of the closed society, and therefore as a reaction 
against the rationalism of the open society. From the way my term ‘ The 
Open Society ’ is used in chapter 10, it may be seen that there is some resem- 



CHAPTER i/notes I-5 

blance to Graham Wallas’ term ‘ The Great Society ’ ; but my term may 
cover a ‘ small society ’ too, as it were, like that of Periclean Athens, while 
it is perhaps conceivable that a ‘ Great Society ’ may be arrested and thereby 
closed. There is also, perhaps, a similarity between my ‘ open society * and 
the term used by Walter Lippmann as the title of his most admirable book. 
The Good Society (i937)- See also notes 59 (2) to chapter 10 and notes 2^, 
32, and 58 to chapter 24, and text. 


For Pericles’ motto, see note 31 to chapter 10, and text. Plato’s motto 
is discussed in some detail in notes 33 and 34 to chapter 6, and text. 

1 I use the term ‘ collectivism ’ only for a doctrine which emphasizes the 
significance of some collective or group, for instance, ‘ the state ’ (or a certain 
state ; or a nation ; or a class) as against that of the individual. The problem 
of collectivism versus individualism is explained more fully in chapter 6, 
below ; see especially notes 26 to 28 to that chapter, and text. — Concerning 
‘ tribalism ’, cp. chapter 10, and especially note 38 to that chapter (list of 
Pythagorean tribal taboos). 

2 This means that the interpretation does not convey any empirical 
information, as shown in my The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 

2 One of the features which the doctrines of the chosen people, the chosen 
race, and the chosen class have in common is that they originated, and became 
important, as reactions against some kind of oppression. The doctrine of the 
chosen people became important at the time of the foundation of the Jewish 
church, i.e. during the Babylonian captivity ; Count Gobineau’s theory of 
the Aryan master race was a reaction of the aristocratic emigrant to the 
claim that the French Revolution had successfully expelled the Teutonic 
masters. Marx’s prophecy of the victory of the proletariat is his reply to 
one of the most sinister periods of oppression and exploitation in modem 
history. Compare with these matters chapter 10, especially note 39, and 
chapter 17, especially notes 13-15, and text. 

* One of the briefest and best summaries of the historicist creed can be 
found in the radically historicist pamphlet which is quoted more fully at the 
end of note 12 to chapter 9, entitled Christians in the Class Struggle^ by Gilbert 
Cope, Foreword by the Bishop of Bradford. (‘ Magnificat ’ Publication 
No. I, Publish*ed by the Council of Clergy and Ministers for Common Owner- 
ship, 1942,28, Maypole Lane, Birmingham 14 ) Here we read, on pp. 5-6 : 

‘ Common to all these views is a certain quality of “ inevitability plus freedom”. 
Biological evolution, the class conflict succession, the action of the Holy Spirit 
— ^all three are characterized by a definite motion towards an end. That 
motion may be hindered or deflected for a time by deliberate human action, 
but its gathering momentum cannot be dissipated, and though the final 
stage is but dimly apprehended, . it is ‘ possible to know enough about 
the process to help forward or to delay the inevitable flow. In other words, 
the natural laws of what we observe to be “ progress ” are sufficiently . . 
understood by men so that they can . . either . . make efforts to arrest 
or divert the main stream — efforts which may seem to be successful for a 
time, but which are in fact foredoomed to failure.’ 

^ Hegel said that, in his Logic, he had preserved the whole of Heraclitus’ 
teaching. He also said that he owed everything to Plato. * It may be worth 
mentioning that Ferdinand von Lassalle, one of the founders of the German 
social democratic movement (and, like Marx, a Hegelian), wrote two volumes 
on Heraclitus.* 




^ The question ‘ What is the world made of? ’ is more or less generally 
accepted as the fundamental problem of the early Ionian philosophers. I 
we assume that they viewed the world as an edifice, the question of the 
ground-plan of the world would be complementary to tliat of its building 
material. And indeed, we hear that Thies was not only interested in the 
stuff the world is made of, but also m descriptive astronomy and geography, 
and that Anaximander was the first to draw up a ground-plan, i.e. a map 
of the earth. Some further remarks on the Ionian school (and especially 
on Anaximander as predecessor of Heraclitus) will be found in chapter lo ; 
cp. notes 38-40 to that chapter, especially note 39. 

* According to R. Eisler, Welienmantel und Himmelszelt, p. 693, Homer’s 
feeling of destiny (‘ moira ’) can be traced back to oriental astral mysticism 
which deifies time, space, and fate. According to the same author {Revue 
de Sjnthise Histonque^ 41, app,, p. 16 £), Hesiod’s father was a native of Asia 
Minor, and the sources of his idea of the Golden Age, and the metals in man, 
are oriental. (Cp. on this question Eisler ’s forthcoming posthumous study 
of Plato, Oxford 1950.) Eisler also show^s {Jesus Basileus, vol. II, 618 f.) that 
the idea of the world as a totality of things (‘ cosmos ’) goes back to Baby- 
lonian political theory. The idea of the world as an edifice (a house or 
tent) IS treated in his WeltenmanieL* 

2 See Diels, Die Vorsokratiker, 5th edition, 1934 (abbreviated here as ‘ D® ’), 
fragment 124; cp. also D^, vol. II, p. 423, lines 21 f. (The interpolated 
negation seems to me methodologically as unsound as the attempt of certain 
authors to discredit the fragment altogether ; apart from this, I follow 
Rustow’s emendation.) For the two other quotations in this paragraph, 
see Plato, Cratylus, 40 id, 402a/b. 

My interpretation of the teaching of Heraclitus is perhaps different from 
that commonly assumed at present, for instance from that of Burnet. Those 
who may feel doubtful whether it is at all tenable are referred to my notes, 
especially the present note and notes 6, 7, and ii, m which I am dealing 
with Heraclitus’ natural philosophy, having confined my text to a presentation 
of the historicist aspect of Heraclitus’ teaching and to his social philosophy. 
I further refer them to the evidence of chapters 4 to 9, and especially of 
chapter 10, in whose light Heraclitus’ philosophy, as I see it, appears as a 
somewhat typical reaction to the social revolution which he witnessed. Gp. 
also the notes 39 and 59 to that chapter (and text), and the general criticism 
of Burnet’s and Taylor’s methods in note 56. 

As indicated in the text, I hold (with many others, for instance, with 
Zeller and Grote) that the doctrine of universal flux is the central doctrine of 
Heraclitus. As opposed to this, Burnet holds that this * is hardly the central 
point in the system’ of Heraclitus (cp. Early Greek Philosophy ^ 2nd ed., 163). 
But a close inspection of his arguments (158 f.) leaves me quite unconvinced 
that Fleraclitus’ fundamental discovery was the abstract metaphysical doctrine 
* that wisdom is not the knowledge of many things, but the perception of the 
underlying unity of warring opposites as Burnet puts it. The unity of 
opposites is certainly an important part of Heraclitus’ teaching, but it can 
be derived (as far as such things can be derived ; cp. note 1 1 to this chapter, 
and the corresponding text) from the more concrete and intuitively under- 
standable theory of flux ; and the same can be said of Heraclitus’ doctrine 
of the fire (cp. note 7 to this chapter). 

Those who suggest, with Burnet, that the doctrine of universal flux was 
not new, but anticipated by the earlier lonians, are, I feel, unconscious 
witnesses to Heraclitus’ originality j for they fail now, after 2,400 years, to 
grasp his main point. They do not see the difference between a flux or 

CHAPTER 2/NOTES 2~3 205 

circulation within a vessel or an edifice or a cosmic framework, i.e. within a 
totality of things (part of the Heraclitean theory can indeed be understood in 
this way, but only that part of it which is not very original ; see below), 
and a universal flux which embraces everything, even the vessel, the framework 
itself (cp. Lucian in D® I, p. 190) and which is described bv Heraclitus* 
denial of the existence of any fixed thing whatever. (In a way, Anaximander 
had made a beginning by dissolving the framework, but there was stil! a 
long way from this to the theory of universal flux. Gp. also note 15 (4) 
to chapter 3 ) 

The doctrine of universal flux forces Heraclitus to attempt an explanation 
of the apparent stability of the things in this world, and of other typical 
regularities. This attempt leads him to the development of subsidiary theories, 
especially to his doctrine of fire (cp. note 7 to this chapter) and of natural 
laws (cp. note 6). It is in this explanation of the apparent stability of the 
world that he makes much use of the theories of his predecessors by developing 
their theory of rarefaction and condensation, together with their doctrine of 
the revolution of the heavens, into a general theory of the circulation of matter, 
and of periodicity. But this part of his teaching, I hold, is not central to it, 
but subsidiary. It is, so to speak, apologetic, for it attempts to reconcile the 
new and revolutionary doctrine of flux with common experience as well as 
with the teaching of his predecessors. I believe, therefore, that he is not a 
mechanical materialist who teaches something like the conservation and 
circulation of matter and of energy ; this view seems to me to be excluded by 
his magical attitude towards laws as well as by his theory of the unity of 
opposites which emphasizes his mysticism. 

My contention that the universal flux is the central theory of Heraclitus 
is, I believe, corroborated by Plato. The overwhelming maj6nty of his 
explicit references to Heraclitus {Crat., 40 id, 402 a/b, 41 1, 437 ff., 440 ; Tkeast., 
I53c/d, i6od, 177c, i79d f., 182a fil, 183a ft., cp. also Symp., 20jd, Phil.y 
43a; cp. also Aristotle’s Metaphysics^ 9S7a33, loioaig, io78bi3) witness to 
the tremendous impression made by this central doctrine upon the thinkers 
of that period. These straightforward and clear testimonies are much 
stronger than the admittedly interesting passage which does not mention 
Heraclitus’ name {Soph.^ 242d f., quoted already, in connection with Heraclitus, 
by Ueberweg and Zeller), on which Burnet attempts to base his interpretation. 
(His other witness, Philo Judaeus, cannot coimt much as against the evidence 
of Plato and Aristotle.) But even this passage agrees completely with our 
interpretation. (With regard to Burnet’s somewhat w^avering judgement 
concerning the value of this passage, cp. note 56 (7) to chapter 1 0.) Heraclitus* 
discovery that the world is not the totality of things but of events or facts is not 
at ail trivial ; this can be perhaps gauged by the fact that Wittgenstein has 
found it necessary to reaffirm it quite recently : ‘ The w'orld is the totality 
of facts, not of things (Cp. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicas^ 1921/22, sentence 
i.i ; italics mine.) 

To sum up. I consider the doctrine of universal flux as fundamental, and 
as emerging from the realm of Heraclitus’ social experiences. All other 
doctrines of his are in a way subsidiary to it. The doctrine of fire (cp. 
Aristotle’s Metaphysics^ 9%^ 73 io67a2 ; also 989a2, qgSag, looiais ; Physics, 
205a3) I consider to be his central doctrine in the field of natural philosophy ; 
it is an attempt to reconcile the doctrine of flux with our experience of stable 
things, a link with the older theories of circulation, and it leads to a theory 
of laws. And the doctrine of the unity of opposites I consider as something 
less central and more abstract, as a forerunner of a kind of logical or methodo- 
logical theory (as such it inspired Aristotle to formulate bis law of con- 
tradiction), and as linked to his mysticism. 

® W. Nestle, Die Vorsokratiker (1905). 35. 

206 CHAPTER 2/NOTES 4-7 

■* In order to facilitate the identification of the fragments quoted, I give 
the numbers of Bwater’s edition (adopted, in his English translation of the 
fragments, by Burnet, Early Greek Philosophy)^ and also the numbers of Diels’ 
5th edition. 

Of the eight passages quoted in the present paragraph, (i) and (2) are 
from the fragments B 114 (= Bywater, and Burnet), D® 121 {— Diels, 
5th edition). The others are from the fragments: (3) B iii, D® 29; 

cp. Plato’s Republic^ 586a/b . . . (4) : B in, D® 104 . . . (5) : B 112, 

D® 39 (cp. D®, voL I, p. 65, Bias, i) . . . (6) : B 5, D® 17 . . . (7) : B 1 10, 
D® 33 ... (8) : B 100, D® 44.^ 

® The three passages quoted in this paragraph are from the fragments : 
(i) and (2) : cp. B 41, D® 91 ; for (i) cp. also note 2 to this chapter. (3) ; 
D® 74. 

® The two passages are B 21, D® 31 ; and B 22, D® 90. 

^ For Heraclitus’ ‘ measures ’ (or laws, or periods), see B 20, 21, 23, 29 ; 
B® 30, 31, 94. (D 31 brings ‘ measure ’ and ‘ law ’ {logos) together.) 

The five passages quoted later m this paragraph are from the fragments : 
fi) : D®, voL I, p. 141, line 10. (Cp. Dtog. Laert, IX, 7.) . . . (2) : B 29, 

D® 94 (cp. note 2 to chapter 5) ... (3) : B 34, D® 100 . . . (4) : B 20, 

D® 30 ... (5) : B 26, D® 66 . ^ 

( 1 ) The idea of law is correlative to that of change or flux, since only laws or 
regularities within the flux can explain the apparent stability of the wmrld. 
The most typical regularities within the changing world known to man are 
the natural periods : the day, the moon-month, and the year (the seasons). 
Heraclitus’ theory of law is, I believe, logically intermediate between the 
comparatively modern view’s of ‘ causal laws ’ (held by Leucippus and 
especially by Democritus) and Anaximander’s dark powers of fate. Heraclitus* 
laws are still ‘ magical ’, i.e. he has not yet distinguished between abstract 
causal regularities and laws enforced, like taboos, by sanctions (witli this, 
cp. chapter 5, note 2). It appears that his theory of fate was connected with 
a theory of a * Great Year ’ or ‘ Great Cycle ’ of 18,000 or 36,000 ordinary 
years. (Cp. for instance J. Adam’s edition of The Republic of Plato^ voL II, 
303.) I certainly do not think that this theory is an indication that Heraclitus 
did not really believe in a universal flux, but only in various circulations which 
always re-established the stability of the framew’ork ; but I think it possible 
that he had difficulties in conceiving a law of change, and even of fate, other 
than one involving a certain amount of periodicity. (Cp. also note 6 to 
chapter 3.) 

(2) Fire plays a central role in Heraclitus’ philosophy of nature. (There 
may be some Persian influence here.) The flame is die obvious symbol of a 
flux or process which appears in many respects as a thing. It thus explains the 
experience of stable things, and reconciles this expprience with the doctrine 
of flux. This idea can easily be extended to living bodies which are like 
flames, only burning more slowly. Heraclitus teaches that all things are 
in flux, all are like fire ; their flux has only different ‘ measures * or laws 
of motion. The ‘ howl ’ or ‘ trough * in which the fire bums will be in a 
much slower flux than the fire, but it will be in flux nevertheless. It changes, 
it has its fate and its laws, it must be burned into by the fire, and consumed, 
even if it takes a longer time before its fate is fulfilled. Thus, * in its advance, 
the fire will judge and convict everything ’ (B 26, D® 66), 

Accordingly, the fire is the symbol and the explanation of the apparent 
rest of things in spite of their real state of flux. But it is also a symbol of the 
transmutation of matter from one stage (fuel) into another. It thus provides 
she link between Heraclitus’ intuitive theory of nature and the theories of 
rarefaction and condensation, etc., of his predecessors. But its flaring up and 
dying down, in accordance with the measure of fuel 'provided, is also an 

CHAPTER 2 /NOTES 8-14 207 

instance of a law. If this is combined with some form of periodicity, then it 
can be used to explain the regularities of natural periods, such as days or years. 
(This trend of thought renders it unlikely that Burnet is right in disbelieving 
the traditional reports of Heraclitus* belief m a periodical conflagration, 
which was probably connected with his Great Year ; cp. Aristotle, 

205a3 with D® 66.) 

8 The thirteen passages quoted in this paragraph are from the fragments. 

(1) : B 10, 123 . . . (2) : B II, D8 93 . . . (3) : B 16, 0^40 . . . (4) ; 

B 94, 73 . . . (5) : B 95, 89 . . . with (4) and (5), cp. Plato’s Republic, 

476c f., and 520c . . . (6) : B 6, D® 19 . . . (7) : B 3, D® 34 . . . (8) : 

B 19, D® 41 ... (9) : B 92, D® 2 . . . (10) : B 91a, D® 113 . . . (u) : 

B 59, D® 10 . . . (12) : B 65, D® 32 . . . (13) : B 28, D® 64. 

8 More consistent than most moral historicists, Heraclitus is also an ethical 
and juridical positivist (for this term, cp. chapter 5) : ‘ All things are, to the 
gods, fair and good and right ; men, however, have taken up some things as 
wrong, and some as right.’ (D^ 102, B 61 ; see passage (8) in note ii.) 
That he was the first juridical positivist is attested by Plato {Theaet., i77c/d). 
On moral and juridical positivism in general, cp. chapter 5 (text to notes 14-18) 
and chapter 22. 

The two passages quoted in this paragraph are : (i) : B 44, D® 53 . . . 

(2) : B 62, D® 80. 

The nine passages quoted in this paragraph are : (i) : B 39, D® 126 
. , . (2) : B 104, D® in ... (3) : B 78, D® 88 . . . (4) : B 45, D® 51 
. . . (5) : D® 8 . . . (6) : B 69, D® 60 . . . (7) : B 50, D® 59 . . . (8) : 
B 61, D® 102 (cp. note 9) . . . (9) : B 57, D® 58. (Cp. Aristotle, Physics, 

Flux or change must be the transition from one stage or property or 
position to another. In so far as flux presupposes something that changes, 
this something must remain identically the same, even though it assumes an 
opposite stage or property or position. This links the theory of flux to that 
of the unity of opposites (cp. Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1005625, 1024a 24 and 34, 
1062332, 1063325) as well as the doctrine of the oneness of ail things ; they 
are aU only different phases or appearances of the one changing something 
(of fire). 

Whether * the path that leads up * and * the path that leads down ’ were 
originally conceived as an ordinary path leading first up a mountain, and 
later down again (or perhaps : leading up from the point of view of the man 
who is down, and down from that of the man who is up), and whether this 
metaphor was only later applied to the processes of circulation, to the path 
that leads up from earth through water (perhaps liquid fuel in a bowl ?) to 
the fire, and down again from the fire through the water (rain ?) to earth ; 
or whether Heraclitus’ path up and down was originally applied by him to 
this process of circulation of matter ; all this can of course not be decided. 
(But I think that the first alternative is more likely in view of the great number 
of similar ideas in Heraclitus’ fragments : cp. the text.) 

The four passages are : (i) : B 102, D® 24 ... (2) : B loi, D® 25 
(a closer version which more or less preserves Heraclitus* pun is : ‘ Greater 
death wins greater destiny.’ Cp. also Plato’s Laws, 903 d/e ; contrast with 
Rep. 617 d/e) . . . (3) : B iii, D® 29 (part of the continuation is quoted 
above ; see passage (3) in note 4) . . . (4) : B 113, D® 49. 

It seems very probable (cp. Meyer’s Gesch. d. Altertums, esp. vol. I) that 
such characteristic teachings as that of the chosen people originated in this 
period, which produced several other religions of salvation besides the Jewish, 

Comte, who in France developed a historicist philosophy not very 
dissimilar from Hegel’s Prussian version, tried, like Hegel, to stem the revolu- 
tionary tide. (Cp. F. A. von Hayek, The Counter-Revolution of Science, Economica, 

2o8 chapter 3 /notes 1-6 

N.S.voLVIII, i94ijpp. ii9fF,28i fT) For Lassalle’s interest in Heraclitus, see 
note 4 to chapter i. — It is interesting to note, in this connection, the paral- 
lelism between the history of historicist and of evolutionary ideas. They 
originated m Greece with the semi-Heraciitean Empedocles (for Plato’s 
version, see note i to chapter ii), and they were revived, in England as 
w^ell as in France, in the time of the French Revolution. 


^ With this explanation of the term oligarchy, cp. also the end of notes 
44 and 57 to chapter 8. 

^ Cp. especially note 48 to chapter 10. 

3 Cp. the end of chapter 7, esp. note 25, and chapter 10, esp. note 69. 

* Cp, Diogenes Laert,^ III, i. — Concerning Plato’s family connections, and 
especially the alleged descent of his father’s family fiom Godrus, ‘ and even 
from the God Poseidon see G. Crete, Plato and other Companions of Socrates 
fed, 1875), vol. I, 114. (See, however, the similar remark on Critias’ family, 
i.e. on that of Plato’s mother, in E. Meyer, Gesckickte des Altertums, vol. V, 
1922, p. G6.) Plato says of Codrus in the Symposium (2o8d) : ‘ Do you suppose 
that Alcestis, ... or Achilles, ... or that your own Codrus would have 
sought death — in order to save the kingship for his children — had they not expected 
to win that immortal memory of their virtue in which indeed we keep them ? ’ 
Plato praises Critias’ (i.e. his mother’s) family m the early Charmides (1576 fF.) 
and in the late Timaeus (2oe), where the family is traced back to the Athenian 
ruler {archon) Dropides, the friend of Solon. 

^ The two autobiographical quotations which follow in this paragraph are 
from the Seventh Letter (325). Plato’s authorship of the Letters has been ques- 
tioned by some eminent scholars (perhaps without sufficient foundation ; 
I think Field’s treatment of this problem very convincing ; cp. note 57 to 
chapter 10 ; on the other hand, even the Seventh Letter looks to me a little 
suspicious — it repeats too much what we know from the Apology^ and says 
too much what the occasion requires). I have therefore taken care to base 
my interpretation of Platonism mainly on some of the most famous dialogues ; 
it is, however, in general agreement with the Letters, For the reader’s con- 
venience, a list of those Platonic dialogues which are frequently mentioned 
in tiie text may be given here, in what is their probable historical order ; 
cp. note 56 (8) to chapter 10. Crito — Apology — Eutyphro ; Protagoras — Meno 
— Gorgias ; Cratylus — Menexenus — Phaedo ; Republic ; Parmenides — Tlieaetetus ; 
Sophist — Statesman (or Politicos) — Philebus ; Timaeus — Critias ; Laws, 

® (i) That historical developments may have a <yclic character is nowhere 
very clearly stated by Plato. It is, however, alluded to in at least four 
dialogues, namely in the Phaedo^ in the Republic^ in the Statesman (or Politicm)^ 
and in the Laws, In all these places, Plato’s theory may possibly allude to 
Heraclitus’ Great Year (cp. note 6 to chapter 2). It may be, however, that 
the allusion is not to Heraclitus directly, but rather to Empedocles, whose 
theory (cp. also Aristotle, MeLy ioooa25 f.) Plato considered as merely a 
‘ milder ’ version of the Heraclitean theory of the unity of all flux. He 
expresses this in a famous passage of the Sophist (2420 f,). According to this 
passage, and to Aristotle (De Gen, Corr.y B, 6., 334^6), there is a historical cycle 
embracing a period in which love rules, and a period in which Heraclitus’ 
strife rules ; and Aristotle tells us that, accordmg to Empedocles, the present 
period is ‘ now a period of the reign of Strife, as it was formerly one of Love 
This insistence that the flux of our own cosmic period is a kind of strife, and 
therefore bad, is in close accordance both with Plato’s theories and with 
Ms experiences. 


The length of the Great Year is, probably, the period of time afte# which 
all heavenly bodies return to the same positions relative to each other as were 
held by them at the moment from which the period is reckoned. (This would 
make it the smallest common multiple of the periods of the * seven planets \) 

(2) The passage in the Phaedo mentioned under (i) alludes first to the 
Heraclitean theory of change leading from one state to its opposite state, or 
from one opposite to the other : ‘ that which becomes less must once ha%'e 
been greater . . ’ (yoe/yia). It then proceeds to indicate a cyclic law of 
development : ‘ Are there not two processes which are ever going on, from 
one extreme to its opposite, and back again . . ? ’ {loc, ciL), And a little later 
(72a/b) the argument is put like this : ‘ If the development were in a straight 
line only, and there were no compensation or cycle in nature, . . then, in 
the end, aU things would take on the same properties . . and there would be 
no further development.’ It appears that the general tendency of the Phaedo 
is more optimistic (and shows more faith in man and in human reason) than 
that of the later dialogues, but there are no direct references to human historical 

(3) Such references are, however, made in the Republic where, in Books 
VIII and IX, we find an elaborate description of historical decay treated 
here in chapter 4. This description is introduced by Plato’s Story of the Fall 
of Man and of the Number, which will here be discussed more fully in chapters 
5 and 8. J. Adam, in his edition of The Republic of Plato (1902, 1921), rightly 
calls this story * the setting in which Plato’s “ Philosophy of History ” is 
framed ’ (vol. II, 210). This story does not contain any explicit statement on 
the cyclic character of history, but it contains a few rather mysterious hints 
which, according to Aristotle’s (and Adam’s) interesting but uncertain 
interpretation, are possibly allusions to the Heraclitean Great Year, i.e. to 
the cyclic development. (Cp. note 6 to chapter 2, and Adam, op, ciU, vol. 
II, 303 ; the remark on Empedocles made there, 303 £, needs correction ; 
see (i) in this note, above.) 

(4) There is, furthermore, the myth in the Statesman (268e-274e). Accord- 
ing to this myth, God himself steers the world for half a cycle of the great 
world period. When he lets go, then the world, which so far has moved 
forward, begins to roU back again. Thus we have two half-periods or half- 
cycles in the full cycle, a forward movement led by God constituting the good 
period without war or strife, and a backward movement when God abandons 
the world, which is a period of increasing disorganization and strife. It is, 
of course, the period in which we live. Ultimately, things will become so 
bad that God will take the wheel again, and reverse the motion, in order to 
save the world from utter destruction. 

This myth shows great resemblances to Empedocles’ myth mentioned 
in (i) above, and probably also to Heraclitus’ Great Year. — Adam {pp, at, 
vol. II, 296 f.) also points out the similarities with Hesiod’s story. * One 
of the points which allude to Hesiod is the reference to a Golden Age of 
Cronos ; and it is important to note that the men of this age are earth-born. 
This establishes a point of contact with the Myth of the Earth-born, and of 
the metals in man, which plays a rdle in the Republic (414b ff. and 5466 £) ; 
this role is discussed below in chapter 8. The Myth of the Earth-bom is 
also alluded to in the Symposium (191b) ; possibly the allusion is to the popular 
claim that the Athenians are ‘ like grasshoppers ’ — ^autochthonous (cp. notes 
32 (i)e to chapter 4 and ii (2) to chapter 8).* 

When, however, later in the Statesman (302b ff.) the six forms of imperfect 
government are ordered according to their degree of imperfection, there is no 
indication any longer to be found of a cyclic theory of history. Rather, the 
six forms, which are all degenerate copies of the perfect or best state {Statesman, 
293d/e ; 297c ; 303b), appear ail as steps in the process of degeneration ; 

210 CHAPTER 3/NOTES 7-9 

i.e. both here and in the Republic Plato coniines himself, when it comes to 
more concrete historical problems, to that part of the cycle wliich leads to 

* (5) Analogous remarks hold for the Laws. Something like a cyclic theory 
is sketched in Book III, 6 y 6 h/c- 6 yyhj wheie Plato turns to a more detailed 
analysis of the beginning of one of the cycles ; and in dySe and dygc, this 
beginning turns out to be a Golden Age, so that the further story a‘gam 
becomes one of deterioration. — It may be mentioned that Plato’s doctrine, 
that the planets are gods, together with the doctrine that the gods influence 
human lives (and with his belief that cosmic forces are at work in history), 
played an important part in the astrological speculations of the neo-Platonists. 
All three doctrines can be found in the Laws (see, for example, 82ib-d and 
899b ; 899d-905d ; 677a ff.). Astrology, it should be realized, shares with 
historicism the belief in a determinate destiny which can be predicted ; and 
it shares with some important versions of historicism (especially with Platonism 
and Marxism) the belief that, notwithstanding the possibility of predicting 
the future, we have some influence upon it, especially if we actually know 
what is coming.* 

(6) Apart from these scanty allusions, there is hardly anything to indicate 
that Plato took the upward or forward part of the cycle seriously. But there 
are many remarks, apart from the elaborate description in the Republic and 
that quoted in (5), which show that he believed very seriously in the downward 
movement, in the decay of history. We must consider, especially, the Timaeus^ 
and the Laws. 

(7) In the Timaeus (42b f., goe If., and especially gid f. ; cp. also the PhaedruSf 
2488 f.) , Plato describes what may be called the origin of species by degeneration 
(cp. text to note 4 to chapter 4, and note 1 1 to chapter 1 1) ; Men degenerate 
into w’omen, and later into lower animals. 

(8) In Book III of the Laws (cp. also Book IV, 713a If. ; see however the 
short allusion to a cycle mentioned above) we have a rather elaborate theory 
of historical decay, largely analogous to that in the Republic. See also the 
next chapter, especially notes 3, 6, 7, 27, 31, and 44. 

^ A similar opinion of Plato’s political aims is expressed by G. C. Field, 
Plato and His Contemporaries (1930), p 91 : ‘ The chief aim of Plato’s philosophy 
may be regarded as the attempt to re-establish standards of thought and 
conduct for a civilization that seemed on the verge of dissolution.’ See also 
note 3 to chapter 6, and text, 

® I follow the majority of the older and a good number of contemporary 
authorities (e.g. G. G. Field, F. M. Comford, A. K. Rogers) in believing, 
against John Burnet and A. E. Taylor, that the theory of Forms or Ideas is 
nearly entirely Plato’s, and not Socrates’, in spite of the fact that Plato puts 
it into the mouth of Socrates as his main speaker. Though Plato’s dialogues 
are our only first-rate source for Socrates* teaching, it is, I believe, possible to 
distinguish in them between ‘ Socratic ’, i.e. historically true, and ‘ Platonic ’ 
features of Plato’s speaker ‘ Socrates ’. The so-called Socratic Problem is 
discussed m chapters 6, 7, 8, and 10 ; cp. especially note 56 to chapter 10. 

® The term ‘ social engineering ’ seems to have been used first by Roscoe 
Pound, in his Introduction to the Philosophy of Law (1922, p. 99 ;* Bryan Magee 
tells me now that the Webbs used it almost certainly before 1922.*) He uses 
the term in the ‘ piecemeal ’ sense. In another sense it is used by M. Eastman, 
Marxism : is it Science? (1940). I read Eastman’s book after the text of my 
own book was written ; my term * social engineering * is, accordingly, used 
without any intention of Eluding to Eastman’s terminology. As far as I 
can see, he advocates the approach which I criticize in chapter 9 under the 
name * Utopian social engineering ’ ; cp. note i to that chapter. — See also 
note 18 (3) to chapter 5. As the first social engineer one might describe the 


CHAPTER 3 /notes 10- 1 5 

tO¥rTi-planner Hippodamxis of Miletus. (Cp. Aristotle’s Politics i27Gb22, and 
R. Eisier, Jesus Basileus^ II, p. 754.) 

The term ‘ social technology ’ has been suggested to me by G G. F. 
Simkin. — I wish to make it clear that in discussing problems of method, my 
main emphasis is upon gaining practical institutional experience, Cp. 
chapter 9, especially text to note 8 to that chapter. For a more detailed 
analysis of the problems of method connected with social engineering and 
social technology, see my The Poverty of Histoncism (2nd edition, i960}, part in. 

The quoted passage is from my The Poverty of Histoncism, p 65 The 
‘ undesigned results of human actions ’ are more fully discussed below, in 
chapter 14, see especially note 1 1 and text. 

I believe in a dualism of facts and decisions or demands {or of * is ’ 
and ‘ ought ’) ; in other words, I believe in the impossibility of reducing 
decisions or demands to facts, although they can, of course, be treated as 
facts. More on this point will be said in chapters 5 (text to notes 4-5), 22, 
and 24. 

12 Evidence in support of this interpretation of Plato’s theory of the best 
state will be supplied in the next three chapters ; I may refer, in the mean- 
while, to Statesman, 293d/e ; 297c ; Laws, 7i3b/c ; 739d/e ; Timaeus, 22d ff., 
especially 250 and 266. 

Gp. Aristotle’s famous report, partly quoted later in this chapter (sec 
especially note 25 to this chapter, and the text). 

This is shown in Grote’s Plato, vol. Ill, note u on p. 267 f. 

The quotations are from the Ttmaeus, 50c /d and 5ie-52b. The simile 
which describes the Forms or Ideas as the fathers, and Space as the mother, 
of the sensible things, is important and has far-reaching connections. Gp. 
also notes 17 and 19 to this chapter, and note 59 to chapter 10. 

( 1 ) It resembles Hesiod’s myth of chaos, the yawning gap (space ; receptacle) 
which corresponds to the mother, and the God Eros, who corresponds to the 
father or to the Ideas. Chaos is the origin, and the question of the causal 
explanation (chaos ~ cause) remains for a long time one of origin (arche) or 
birth or generation. 

(2) The mother or space corresponds to the indefinite or boundless of 
Anaximander and of the Pythagoreans. The Idea, which is male, must 
therefore correspond to the definite (or limited) of the Pythagoreans. For 
the definite, as opposed to the boundless, the male, as opposed to the female, 
the light, as opposed to the dark, and the good, as opposed to the bad, all 
belong to the same side in the Pythagorean table of opposites, (Cp. Aristotle’s 
Metaphysics, 986a22 f.) We also can therefore expect to see the Ideas associated 
with light and goodness. (Cp. end of note 32 to chapter 8.) 

(3) The Ideas are boundaries or limits, they are definite, as opposed to 
indefinite Space, and impress or imprint (cp. note 17 (2) to this chapter) 
themselves like rubber-stamps, or better, like moulds, upon Space {which 
is not only space but at the same time Anaximander’s unformed matter — 
stuff without property), thus generating sensible things. J. D. Mabbott 
has kindly drawn my attention to the fact that the Forms or Ideas, according 
to Plato, do not impress themselves upon Space but are, rather, impressed 
or imprinted upon it by the Demiurge. Traces of the theory that the Forms 
are ‘ causes both of being and of generation (or becoming) ’ can be found 
already m the Phaedo (lood), as Aristotle points out (in Metaphysics io8oa2).* 

(4) In consequence of the act of generation, Space, i.e, the receptacle, 
begins to labour, so that all things are set in motion, in a Heraclitean or 
Empedoclean fiux which is really universal in so far as the movement or fiux 
extends even to the framework, i.e. (boundless) space itself. (For the late 
Heraclitean idea of the receptacle, cp. the Cratylus, 41 2d.) 

(5) This description is also reminiscent of Parmenides’ ‘ Way of Delusive 



Opinion in wHch the world of experience and of flux is created by the 
mingling of two opposites, the light (or hot or fire) and the dark (or cold or 
eart£). It is clear that Plato’s Forms or Ideaa would correspond to the 
former, and space or what is boundless to the latter ; especially if we consider 
that Plato’s pure space is closely akin to indeterminate matter. 

(6) The opposition between the determinate and indeterminate seems also 
to correspond, especially after the all-important discovery of the irrationality 
of the square root of two, to the opposition between the rational and the 
irrational. But since Parmenides identifies the rational with being, this 
would lead to an interpretation of space or the irrational as non-being. In 
other words, the Pythagorean table of opposites is to be extended to cover 
rationality, as opposed to irrationality, and being, as opposed to non-being. 
(This agrees with Metaphysics, ioo4b27, where Aristotle says that ‘all the 
contraries are reducible to being and non-being ’ ; io72a3i, where one side 
of the table — that of being — is described as the object of (rational) thought ; 
and 1 093b 1 3, where the powers of certain numbers — ^presumably in opposition 
to their roots — are added to this side. This would further explain Aristotle’s 
remark in Metaphysics, 986b27 ; and it would perhaps not be necessary to 
assume, as F. M. Gornford does in his excellent article ‘ Parmenides* Two 
Ways’, Class. Quart., XVII, 1933, p. 108, that Parmenides, fr. 8, 53/54, 
* has been misinterpreted by Aristotle and Theophrastus ’ ; for if we expand 
the table of opposites in this way, Cornford’s most convincing interpretation 
of the crucial passage of fr. 8 becomes compatible with Aristotle’s remark.) 

(7) Gornford has explained {op. cit., 100) that there are three ‘ ways ’ in 
Parmenides, the way of Truth, the way of Not-being, and the way of Seeming 
(or, if I may call it so, of delusive opinion). He shows (loi) that they cor- 
respond to three regions discussed in the Republic, the perfectly real and rational 
world of the Ideas, the perfectly tmreal, and the world of opinion (based on 
the perception of things in flux). He has also shown (102) that in the Sophist, 
Plato modifies his position. To this, some comments may be added from the 
point of view of the passages in the Timaeus to which this note is appended. 

(S) The main difference between the Forms or Ideas of the Republic and 
those of the Timaeus is that in the former, the Forms (and also God ; cp. 
Rep., 38od) are petrified, so to speak, while in the latter, they are deified. In 
the former, they bear a much closer resemblance to the Parmenidean One 
(cp. Adam’s note to Rep., 38od28, 31), than in the latter. This development 
leads to the Laws, where the Ideas are largely replaced by souls. The decisive 
difference is that the Ideas become more and more the starting points of 
motion and causes of generation, or as the Timaeus -puXsit, fathers of the moving 
things. The greatest contrast is perhaps between the Phaedo, 790 : ‘ The 
soul is infinitely more like the imchangeable ; even the most stupid person 
would not deny that * (cp. also Rep., 585c, 609b f.), and the Laws, 895e/896a 
(cp. Phaedrus, 245c ff.) : * What is the definition of that which is named 
“ soul ” ? Can we imagine any other definition than . . “ The motion 
that moves itself” ? * The transition between these two positions is, perhaps, 
provided by the Sophist (which introduces the Form or Idea of motion itself) 
and by the Timaeus, 35a, which describes the * divine and unchanging ’ 
Forms and the changing and corruptible bodies. This seems to explain 
why, in the Laws (cp. 894d/e), the motion of the soul is said to be ^ first in 
origin and power * and why the soul is described (qSGe) as ‘ the most ancient 
and divine of ail things whose motion is an ever-flowing source of real 
existence ’. (Since, according to Plato, all living things have souls,* it may be 
claimed that he admitted the presence of an at least partly formal principle 
in things ; a point of view which is very close to Aristotelianism, especially in 
the presence of the primitive and widespread belief that all things are alive.) 
(Cp. also note 7 to chapter 4.) 

CHAPTER 3/KOTES 1 6-2 1 213 

(9) In this development of Plato’s thought, a development whose driving 
force IS to explain the w^orld of flux with the help of the Ideas, i.e. to make 
the break between the woild of reason and the world of opinion at least 
understandable, even though it cannot be bridged, the SopList seems to play 
a decisive role. Apart from making room, as Cornford mentions iop. czL 
102), for the plurality of Ideas, it piesents them, in an argument against 
Plato’s own earlier position (248a ff.) : (a) as active causes, which mav iniciact, 
for example, with mind ; (^i) as unchanging m spite of that, althougii theie 
is now an Idea of motion m which all moving things participate and which 
IS not at rest ; (c) as capable of mingling with one another It furtlier intro- 
duces ‘ Not-being identified in the Timaeus with Space (cp. Cornford, 
Plato’s Theory of Knowledge, ^ 935 ^ note to 247), and thus makes it possible 
for the Ideas to mingle with it (cp. also Philolaus, fi 2, 3, 5, Diels and to 
produce the world of flux with its characteristic intermediate position between 
the being of Ideas and the not-bemg of Space or matter. 

(10) Ultimately, I wdsh to defend my contention in the text that the 
Ideas are not only outside space, but also outside time, though they are in 
contact with the world at the beginning of time. This, I believe, makes it 
easier to understand how they act without being m motion ; for all motion or 
flux is in space and time. Plato, I believe, assumes that time has a beginning. 
I think that this is the most direct interpretation of Laws, 721c : * the race 
of man is twnn-born with all time ’, considering the many indications that 
Plato believed man to be created as one of the first creatures. (In this point, 
I disagree slightly with Cornford, Plato’s Cosmology, 1937, p. 143, and pp. 
26 ff.) 

(11) To sum up, the Ideas are earlier and better than their changing 
and decaying copies, and are themselves not in flux, (See also note 3 to 
chapter 4.) 

Cp. note 4 to this chapter. 

(i) The role of the gods m the Timaeus is similar to the one described 
in the text. Just as the Ideas stamp out things, so the gods form the bodies 
of men. Only the human soul is created by the Demiurge himself who also 
creates the w^orld and the gods. (For another hint that the gods are patriarchs, 
see Laws, 7i3c/d.) Men, the w'eak, degenerate children of gods, aie then 
liable to further degeneration ; cp. note 6 (7) to this chapter, and 37-41 to 
chapter 5. 

(2) In an interesting passage of the Laws (68 ib ; cp. also note 32 (i, a) 
to chapter 4) w^e find another allusion to the parallelism betw een the relation 
Idea — things and the relation parent — children. In this passage, the origin of 
law is explained by the influence of tradition, and more especially, by the 
transmission of a rigid order fiom the parents to the children ; and the 
following remark is made : ‘ And they (the parents) would be sure to stamp 
upon their children, and upon their children’s children, their own cast of 

Cp. note 49, especially (3), to chapter 8. 

Cp. Timaeus, 31a. The term which I have freely translated by ‘ superior 
thing which is their prototype ’ is a term frequently used by Aristotle with 
the meaning ‘ universal ’ or ‘ generic term It means a ‘ thing which is 
general ’ or ‘ surpassing ’ or ‘ embracing ’ ; and I suspect that it originally 
means * embracing ’ or ‘ covering ’ in the sense in w'hich a mould embraces 
or covers w^hat it moulds. 

Cp. Republic, 597c. See also 596a (and Adam’s second note to 596a5) ; 
‘ For we are in the habit, you will remember, of postulating a Form or Idea — 
one for each group of many particular things to which w’e apply the same 

There are innumerable passages in Plato ; I mention only the Phaedo 
O.S.I.E. — VOL. I H 

214 CHAPTER 3 /notes 22-26 

(e.g. 79a), the Republic, 544a, the Theaetetus (i52d/e, i79d/e), the Timaeus 
(28b/c, 29c/d, 5 id f.). Aristotle mentions it in Metaphysics, 987a32 ; 999a25-~ 
999bio ; ioioa6-i5 ; I078bi5 ; see also notes 23 and 25 to this chapter. 

22 Parmenides taught, as Burnet puts it {Early Greek Philosophy \ 208), 
that ‘ what is , • is finite, spherical, motionless, corporeal i.e. that the world 
is a Ml globe, a whole without any parts, and that ‘ there is nothing beyond 
it I am quoting Burnet because (a) his description is excellent and [b) it 
destroys his own interpretation {E.G.P., 208-11) of what Parmenides calls the 
‘ Opinion of the Mortals ’ (or the Way of Delusive Opinion). For Burnet 
dismisses there all the interpretations of Aristotle, Theophrastus, Simplicius, 
Gomperz, and Meyer, as ‘ anachronisms ’ or ‘ palpable anachronisms etc. 
Now the interpretation dismissed by Burnet is practically the same as the one 
here proposed in the text ; namely, that Parmenides believed in a world of 
reality behind this world of appearance. Such a dualism, which would allow 
Parmenides* description of the world of appearance to claim at least some 
kind of adequacy, is dismissed by Burnet as hopelessly anachronistic. I 
suggest, however, that if Parmenides had believed solely in his unmoving world, 
and not at all in the changing world, then he would have been really mad 
(as Empedocles hints). But m fact there is an indication of a similar dualism 
already in Xenophanes, fragm. 23-6, if confronted with fragm. 34 (esp. 

‘ But all may have their fancy opinions ’), so that we can hardly speak of 
an anachronism. — As indicated in note 1 5 (6-7), I follow Gornford’s interpreta- 
tion of Parmenides. (See also note 41 to chapter 10.) 

Cp. Aristotle’s Metaphysics, I078b23 ; the next quotation is ; op, cit , 

This valuable comparison is due to G. C. Field, Plato and His Coniem- 
poranes, 2 1 1 . 

The preceding quotation is from Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1078b 15 ; the 
next from op. cit., 987 by. 

In 'Aristotle’s analysis (in Metaphysics, gSyaso-biB) of the arguments 
which led to the theory of Ideas (cp. also note 56 (6) to chapter 10), we can 
distinguish the following steps ; {a) Heraclitus’ flux, {b) the impossibility of 
true knowledge of things m flux, (c) the influence of Socrates’ ethical essences, 
{d) the Ideas as objects of true knowledge, {e) the influence of the Pythagoreans, 
(/) the ‘ mathematicals ’ as intermediate objects. — {{e) and (/) I have not 
mentioned in the text, w’here I have mentioned instead (^) the Parmenidean 

It may be worth while to show how’ these steps can be identified in Plato’s 
own work, where he expounds his theory ; especially in the Phaedo and in the 
Republic, in the Theaetetus and in the Sophist, and in the Timaeus. 

(i) In the Phaedo, we find indications of all the points up to and including 
{e). In 65a-66a, the steps {d) and (c) are prominent, with an allusion to (b). 
In yoe step {a), Heraclitus’ theory appears, combined with an element of 
Pythagoreanism (e). This leads to 74a ff., and to a statement of step (d). 
99-100 is an approach to (d) through (c), etc. For (a) to {d), cp. also the 
Cratylus, 439c ff. 

In the Republic, it is of course especially Book VI that corresponds closely 
to Aristotle’s report, {d) In the beginning of Book VI, 485a/b (cp, 527a/b), 
the Heraclitean flux is referred to (and contrasted with the unchanging world 
of Forms). Plato there speaks of ‘ a reality which exists for ever and is 
exempt from generation and degenefaiion^ . (Cp. notes 2 (2) and 3 to chapter 4 
and note 33 to chapter 8, and text.) The steps {b), (d) and especially (/) 
play a rather obvious role in the famous Simile of the Line {Rep., 5090-5116 ; 
cp. Adam’s notes, and his appendix I to Book VII) ; Socrates’ ethical 
influence, i.e. step (c), is of course alluded to throughout the Republic. It 
plays an important r 61 e within the Simile of the Line and especially imme- 

CHAPTER 3 /NOTE 26 215 

ciiately before, i.e. in 508b ff., where the role of the good is emphasized ; see 
in particular 5o8b/c : ‘ This is what I maintain regarding the oiTpring of the 
good. What the good has begotten m its own likeness is, in the* intelligible 
world, related to reason (and its objects) in the same w’ay as, in the visible 
world that which is the offspring of the sun, ‘ is related to sight fand its 
objects) ’ Step (<?) is implied in (/), but more fully developed in Bock VIL 
in the famous Curriculum (cp. especially 523a~527c), which is largeh based 
on the Simile of the Line in Book VI. 

(2) In the Theaeietus, (a) and (b) are treated cKtensivelv ; (c) is mentioned 
in 174b and 175c. In the Sophist, all the steps, including (g], are mentioned, 
only {e) and (/) being left out ; see especially 247a (step {c) ) ; 249c ^'step (i? ) ; 
253d/e (step (if) ) In the Pkilebus, w^e find indications of ail steps except per- 
haps (/) ; steps (a) to (d) are especially emphasized in sga-c. 

(3) In the Timaeus, all the steps mentioned by Aristotle are indicated, 
with the possible exception of (r), wLich is alluded to only indirectly in the 
introductory recapitulation of the contents of the Republic, and m 2gd. Step 
{e) is, as it were, alluded to throughout, since ‘ Timaeus ’ is a ‘ western ' 
philosopher and strongly influenced by Pythagoreanism. The other steps 
occur tw ice in a form almost completely parallel to Aristotle’s account ; first 
briefly in 28a-29d, and later, with more elaboration, in 48e-55c. Immediately 
after (a), i.e. a Heraclitean description (4ga ff. ; cp. Cornfoid, Plato’s Cosmology, 
178) of the world in flux, the argument (b) is raised (5ic-e) that if we are right 
in distinguishing between reason (or true knowledge) and mere opinion, we 
must admit the existence of the unchangeable Forms ; these are (in 5ie f.) 
introduced next in accordance with step (d). The Heraclitean flux then 
comes again (as labouring space), but this time it is explained, as a consequence 
of the act of generation. And as a next step (/) appears, in 53c, (I suppose 
that the ‘ lines and planes and solids ’ mentioned by Aristotle in Metaphysics, 
992b 13, refer to 53c ff.) 

(4) It seems that this parallelism between the Timaeus and Aristotle’s 
report has not been sufficiently emphasized so far ; at least, it is not used by 
G. G. Field in his excellent and convincing analysis of Aiistotle’s report 
{Plato and His Contemporaries, 202 ff). But it would have stiengthened Field’s 
arguments (arguments, however, which hardly need strengthening, since they 
are practically conclusive) against Burnet’s and Taylor’s viev\s that the Theory 
of Ideas is Socratic (cp. note 56 to chapter 10). For in the Timaeus, Plato does 
not put this theory into the mouth of Socrates, a fact wLich according to 
Burnet’s and Taylor’s principles should prove that it was not Socrates’ theory, 
(They avoid this inference by claiming that ‘ Timaeus ’ is a Pythagorean, and 
that he develops not Plato’s philosophy but his own. But Aristotle knew 
Plato personally for twenty years and should have been able to judge these 
matters ; and he wrote his Metaphysics at a time when members of the Academy 
could have contradicted his presentation of Platonism.) 

(5) Burnet writes, in Greek Philosophy, I, 155 (cp. also p. xliv of his edition 

of the Phaedo, 1 9 1 1 ) : * the theory of forms in the sense in w hich it is maintained 
in the Phaedo and Republic is wholly absent from what w'e may faiily regard the 
most distinctively Platonic of the dialogues, those, namely, in w’hich Socrates 
is no longer the chief speaker. In that sense it is never even mentioned in 
any dialogue later than the Parmenides . . with the single exception of the 
Timaeus (51c), where the speaker is a Pythagorean.’ But if it is maintained in 
the Timaeus in the sense in which it is maintained in the Republic, then it is 
certainly so maintained in the Sophist, 257d/e ; and in the Statesman, 269c ; 

286a ; 297b/c, and c/d ; 301a and e ; 3026 ; and 3a3b ; and in the Phdebus, 
15a f., and 59a~d ; and in the Laws, 713b, 739d/e, 962c f., 963c ff., and, 
most important, 965c (cp. Philebus, i6d), 965d, and 966a ; see also the next 
note. (Burnet believes in the genuineness of the Letters, especially the Seventh ; 

2 i 6 chapter 3 /notes 27-31 

but the theory of Ideas is maintained there in 342a ff. ; see also note 56 
(53 d) to chapter 10.) 

** 27 Qp, Laws^ 8g5d~e. I do not agree with England’s note (in his edition 

of the Laws, voL IIj 472) that ‘ the word “ essence ” will not help us True, 
if we meant by ‘ essence ’ some important sensible part of the sensible thing 
(which might perhaps be purified and produced by some distillation), then 
‘ essence ’ w^ould be misleading. But the word ‘ essential ’ is widely used in 
a way which corresponds very well indeed with what we wish to express here ; 
something opposed to the accidental or unimportant or changing empirical 
aspect of the thing, whether it is conceived as dwelling m that thing, or in a 
metaphysical world of Ideas. 

I am using the term ‘ essentialism ’ in opposition to ‘ nominalism in order 
to avoid, and to replace, the misleading traditional term ‘ realism wherever 
it IS opposed (not to ‘ idealism ’ but) to ‘ nominalism (See also note 26 ff. 
to chapter ii, and text, and especially note 38.) 

On Plato’s application of his essentiahst method, for instance, as mentioned 
in the text, to the theory of the soul, see Laws, 8950 f., quoted in note 15 (8) 
to this chapter, and chapter 5, especially note 23. See also, for instance, 
Meno, 86d/e, and Symposium, iggc/d. 

On the theory of causal explanation, cp. my T/is Logic of Scientific Dis- 
covey, especially section 12, pp. 59 ff See also note 6 to chapter 25, below. 

2® The theory of language here indicated is that of Semantics, as developed 
especially by A. Tarski and R. Carnap. Cp. Carnap, Introduction to Semantics, 
1942, and note 23 to chapter 8. 

20 The theory that while the physical sciences are based on a methodological 
nominalism, the social sciences must adopt essentiahst (‘ realistic ’) methods, 
has been made clear to me by K. Polanyi (in 1925) ; he pointed out, at that 
time, that a reform of the methodology of the social sciences might conceivably 
be achieved by abandoning this theory. — ^The theory is held, to some extent, 
by most sociologists, especially by J. S. Mill (for instance. Logic, VI, ch. VI, 2 , 
see also his historicist formulations, e.g. in VI, ch. X, 2, last paragraph ; ‘ The 
fundamental problem . . of the social science is to find the laws according 
to which any state of society produces the state which succeeds it . .’), K. Marx 
(see below) ; M. Weber (cp., for example, his definitions m the beginning of 
Methodische Grundlagen der Soziologie, in Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, I, and in 
Ges. Aujsaetze zur Wissenschaftslehre), G. Simmel, A. Vierkandt, R. M. MacIver, 
and many more. — The philosophical expression of all these tendencies is 
E, Husserl’s ‘ Phaenomenology ’, a systematic revival of the methodological 
essentialism of Plato and Aristotle. (See also chapter ii, especially note 
44 *) 

The opposite, the nominalist attitude in sociology, can be developed, I 
think, only as a technological theory of social institutions. 

In this context, I may mention how I came to trace historicism back to 
Plato and Heraclitus. In analysing historicism, I found that it needs what 
I call now methodological essentialism ; i.e. I saw that the typical arguments 
in favour of essentialism are bound up with historicism (cp my The Poverty of 
Historicism), This led me to consider the history of essentialism. I was struck 
by the parallelism between Aristotle’s report and the analysis which I had 
carried out originally without any reference to Platonism. In this way, I 
was reminded of the rdles of both Heraclitus and Plato in this development, 
R. H. S. Grossman’s Plato To-day (1937) was the first book (apart from 
G. Grote’s Plato) I have found to contain a political interpretation of Plato 
which is partly similar to my own. See also notes 2-3 to chapter 6, and text- 
* Since then I have found that similar views of Plato have been expressed by 
„ various authors. G. M. Bo^vra {Ancient Greek Literature, 1933) is perhaps the 
first ; his brief but thorough criticism of Plato (pp. 186-90) is as fair as it is 

CHAPTER 4 /NOTES I ~3 217 

penetrating The others are W. Fite {The Platonic Legend^ ^934) 5 Farring- 
ton {Science and Politics in the Ancient World, 1939) ; A. D Winspear {The 
Genesis of Plato’ s Thought, 1940) ; and H Kelsen {Platonic Justice, 1933 ; 
in What is Justice?, 1957, and Platonic Love, in The Ameiican Imago, voL 3, 



^ Cp. Republic, 6o8e. See also note 2 (2) to this chapter. 

2 In the Lairn, the soul — * the most ancient and divine of all things in 

motion’ (9660) — is described as the ‘starting point of all motion* (895b). 
( I ) With the Platonic theory, Aristotle contrasts his own, according to which 
the ‘ good * thing is not the starting point, but rather the end or aim of change, 
since *’ good * means a thing aimed at — the final cause of change. Thus he says of 
the Platonists, i.e. of ‘ those who believe in Forms *, that they agree with 
Empedocles (they speak ‘ in the same way * as Empedocles) in so far as they 
‘ do not speak as if anything came to pass for the sake of these * (i.e. of things which 
are ‘ good ’) ‘ but as if all movement started from them *. And he points out that 

‘ good ’ means therefore to the Platonists not ‘ a cause qua good i.e. an aim, 

but that ‘ it is only incidentally a good *. Cp Metaphysics, 988a35 and b8 ff. 
and 1075a, 34/35. This criticism sounds as if Aristotle had sometimes held 
views similar to those of Speusippus, which is indeed Zeller’s opinion ; see 
note II to chapter ii. 

(2) Concerning the movement towards corruption, mentioned in the text in 
this paragraph, and its general significance m the Platonic philosophy, we 
must keep in mind the general opposition between the world of unchanging 
things or Ideas, and the world of sensible things in flux. Plato often expresses 
this opposition as one between the world of unchanging things and the world 
of corruptible things, or between things that are ungenerated, and those that are 
generated and are doomed to degenerate, etc. ; see, for instance, Republic, 
485a/b, quoted in note 26 (i) to chapter 3 and in text to note 33 to chapter 8 ; 
Republic, 5o8d~e ; 527a/b ; and Republic, 546a, quoted in text to note 37 to 
chapter 5 : ‘ All things that have been generated must degenerate ’ (or 
decay). That this problem of the generation and corruption of the world of 
things in flux was an important part of the Platonic School tradition is indicated 
by the fact that Aristotle devoted a separate treatise to this problem. Another 
interesting indication is the way in which Aristotle talked about these matters 
in the introduction to his Politics, contained in the concluding sentences of 
the Nicomachean Ethics (ii8ib/i5) : ‘We shall try to . . find what it is that 
preserves or corrupts the cities . .’ This passage is significant not only as a 
general formulation of what Aristotle considered the main problem of his 
Politics, but also because of its striking similarity to an important passage 
m the Laws, viz. 676a, and GySb/c quoted below in text to notes 6 and 25 to 
this chapter. (See also notes i, 3, and 24/25 to this chapter ; see note 32 to 
chapter 8, and the passage from the Laws quoted in note 59 to chapter 8.) 

® This quotation is from the Statesman, 269d. (See also note 23 to this 
chapter.) For the hierarchy of motions, see Laws, 893c-895b. For the theory 
that perfect things (divine ‘ natures * ; cp. the next chapter) can only become 
less perfect when they change, see especially Republic, 3800-38 ic — in many 
ways (note the examples in 3800) a parallel passage to Laws, 797d. The 
quotations from Aristotle are from the Metaphysics, qSSbg, and from De Gen. et 
Corn, 335b 14. The last four quotations in this paragraph are from Plato’s 
Laws, 904c f., and ygjd. See also note 24 to this chapter, and text. (It is 
possible to interpret the remark about the evil objects as another allusion to a 
cyclic development, as discussed in note 6 to chapter 2, i.e. as an allusion to 

2i8 chapter 4/notes 

the belief that the trend of the development must reverse, and that things must 
begin to improve, once the woild has reached the lowest depth of evilness. 

* Since my interpretation of the Platonic theory of change and of the 
passages from the Laws has been challenged, I wish to add some further 
comments, especially on the two passages (i) Laws^ 904c, f, and (2) 797d. 

(1) The passage Laws, 904c, ‘ the less significant is the beginning decline 
in their level of rank * may be translated more literally ‘ the less significant 
is the beginning movement down in the level of rank h It seems to me certain, 
from the context, that ‘ down the level of rank ’ is meant rather than ‘ as to 
level of rank which clearly is also a possible translation. (My reason is 
not only the whole dramatic context, down from 904a, but also more especially 
the series ‘ kata . . . kata . . . kato * which, m a passage of gathering 
momentum, must colour the meaning of at least the second ‘ kata \ — Con- 
cerning the word I translate by ‘ level this may^ admittedly, mean not only 
‘ plane * but also ‘ surface ’ ; and the word I translate by ‘ rank ’ may mean 

* space ’ ; yet Bury’s translation : ‘ the smaller the change of chaiacter, the 
less is the movement over surface in space ’ does not seem to me to yield much 
meaning in tills context.) 

(2) The continuation of this passage {Laws, 798) is most characteristic. 
It demands that ‘ the lawgiver must contrive, by whatever means at his 
disposal (‘ by hook or by crook as Bury well translates), a method which 
ensures for his state that the whole soul of every one of its citizens will, from 
reveience and fear, resist any change of any of the things that are established 
of old h (Plato includes, explicitly, things which other lawgivers consider 

* mere matters of play ’ — such, as, for example, changes in the games of 

(3) In general, the main evidence for my interpretation of Plato’s theory 
of change — apart from a great number of minor passages referred to in the 
various notes in this chapter and the preceding one — is of course found in the 
histoiical or evolutionary passages of all the dialogues which contain such 
passages, especially the Republic (the decline and fall of the state from its 
near-perfect or Golden Age in Books VIII and IX), the Statesman (the theory 
of the Golden Age and its decline), the Laws (the story of the primitive patri- 
archy and of the Dorian conquest, and the story of the decline and fall of 
the Persian Empire), the Timaeus (the story of evolution by degeneration, 
v/hich occurs twice, and the story of the Golden Age of Athens, which is con- 
tinued in the Critias). 

To this evidence Plato’s frequent references to Hesiod must be added, 
and the undoubted fact that Plato’s synthetic mind was not less keen than 
that of Empedocles (whose period of strife is the one ruling now ; cp. Aristotle, 
De Gen, et Corr., 334a, b) in conceiving human affairs in a cosmic setting 
{Statesman, Timaeus), 

(4) Ultimately, I may perhaps refer to general psychological considera- 
tions. On the one hand the fear of innovation (illustrated by many passages 
in the Laws, e.g. 758c/d) and, on the other hand, the idealization of the past 
(such as found in Hesiod or in the story of the lost paradise) are frequent and 
striking phenomena. It is perhaps not too far-fetched to connect the latter, 
or even both, with the idealization of one’s childhood — one’s home, one’s 
parents, and with the nostalgic wish tq return to these early stages of one’s 
life, to one’s origin. There are many passages in Plato in which he takes it 
for granted that the original state of affairs, or original nature, is a state of 
blessedness. I refer only to the speech of Aristophanes in the Sympodum ; 
here it is taken for granted that the urge and the suffering of passionate love 
is sufficiently explained if it is shown that it derives from this nostalgia, and 
similarly, that the feelings of sexual gratification can be explained as those of 
a gratified nostalgia. Thus Plato says of Eros {Symposium, 193d) : * He will 

CHAPTER 4 /NOTES 4-7 219 

restore us to our original nature (see also 19 id) and heal us and make us happy 
and blessed ’ The same thought underlies many remarks such as the follow- 
ing from the Philebus (i6c) : * The men of old . . were better than we are 
now, and . . lived nearer to the gods . All this indicates the view 
that our unhappy and unblessed state is a consequence of the development 
which makes us different from our original nature — our Idea ; and it further 
indicates that the development is one from a state of goodness and blessedness 
to a state where goodness and blessedness are being lost ; but this means that 
the development is one of increasing corruption, Plato’s theory of anamnesis 
— the theory that all know'ledge is re-cognition or re-collection of the know- 
ledge we had in our pre-natal past is part of the same view : in the past 
theie resides not only the good, the noble, and the beautiful, but also all 
wisdom Even the ancient change or motion is better than secondary motion ; 
for in the Laws the soul is said to be (895b) ‘ the starting point of all motion s 
the first to arise in things at rest . . the most ancient and potent motion 
and (966c) ‘the most ancient and divine of all things’. (Gp. note 15 (8) 
to chapter 3.) 

As pointed out before (cp. especially note 6 to chapter 3), the doctrine 
of an historical and cosmic tendency towards decay appears to be combined, 
in Plato, with a doctrine of an historical and cosmic cycle. (The period of 
decay, probably, is a part of this cycle.) * 

* Cp Timaeus^ 9id-92b/c. See also note 6 (7) to chapter 3 and note ii 
to chapter 1 1 . 

® See the beginning of chapter 2 above, and note 6 (i) to chapter 3. It 
is not a mere accident that Plato mentions Hesiod’s story of ‘ metals ’ when 
discussing his own theory of historical decay {Rep.^ 546e/547a, esp. notes 39 
and 40 to chapter 5) , he clearly wishes to indicate how well his theory fits 
in with, and explains, that of Hesiod, 

® The historical part of the Laws is in Books Three and Four (see note 6 (5) 
and (8) to cliapter 3). The two quotations in the text ai:e from the beginning 
of this part, i.e. Laws^ 676a. For the parallel passages mentioned, see Republic, 
369b, f. (‘ The birth ot a city . .’) and 545d (‘ How will our city be 
changed . .’). 

It is often said that the Laws (and the Statesman) are less hostile towards 
democracy than the Republic, and it must be admitted that Plato’s general 
tone is in fact less hostile (this is perhaps due to the increasing inner strength 
of democracy ; see chapter 10 and the beginning of chapter 1 1). But the only 
practical concession msde to democracy in the Laws is that political officers 
are to be elected, by the members of the ruling (i.e. the military) class ; and 
since all important changes in the laws of the state are forbidden anyway 
(cp., for instance, the quotations in note 3 of this chapter), this does not mean 
very much. The fundamental tendency remains pro-Spartan, and this 
tendency was, as can be seen from Aristotle’s Politics, ii, 6, 17 (1265b), com- 
patible with a so-called ‘ mixed ’ constitution. In fact, Plato in the Laws is, if 
anything, more hostile towards the spirit of democracy, i e. towards the idea of 
the freedom of the individual, than he is in the Republic ; cp. especially the text 
to notes 32 and 33 to chapter 6 (i.e. Laws, 739c, ff, and 942a, f.) and to 
notes 19-22 to chapter 8 (i.e. Laws, 903c-909a) — See also next note 

’ It seems likely that it was largely this difficulty of explaining the first 
change (or the Fall of Man) that led Plato to transform his theory^ of Ideas, 
as mentioned m note 15 (8) to chapter 3 ; viz., to transform the Ideas into 
causes and active powers, capable of mingling with some of the other Ideas 
(cp. Sophist, 2520, ff), and of rejecting the remaining ones {Sophist, 223c), and 
thus to transform them into something like gods, as opposed to the Republic 
which (cp. gSod) petrifies even the gods into unmoving and unmoved 
Parmenidean beings. An important turning point is, apparently, the Sophist, 

220 CHAPTER 4 /NOTES 8-1 1 

2486-2490 (note especially that here the Idea of motion is not at rest). The 
transformation seems to solve at the same time the difficulty of the so-called 
‘ third man ’ ; for if the Forms are, as in the Timaeus, fathers, then there is 
no ‘ third man * necessary to explain their similarity to their offspring. 

Regarding the relation of the Republic to the Statesman and to the Laws^ 
I think that Plato’s attempt in the two latter dialogues to trace the origin of 
human society further and further back is likewise connected with the 
difficulties inherent in the problem of the' first change. That it is difficult to 
conceive of a change overtaking a perfect city is clearly stated in Republic, 
546a ; Plato’s attempt in the Republic to solve it will be discussed in the next 
chapter (cp. text to notes 37-40 to chapter 5). In the Statesman, Plato adopts 
the theory of a cosmic catastrophe which leads to the change from the 
(Empedoclean) half-circle of love to the present period, the half-circle of strife. 
This idea seems to have been dropped in the Timaeus, in order to be replaced 
by a theory (retained in the Laws) of more limited catastrophes, such as floods, 
which may destroy civilizations, but apparently do not affect the course of 
the universe. (It is possible that this solution of the problem was suggested 
to Plato by the fact that in 373-372 b.c., the ancient city of Helice was destroyed 
by earthquake and flood.) The earliest form of society, removed in the 
Republic only by one single step from the still existing Spartan state, is thrust 
back to a more and more distant past. Although Plato continues to believe 
that the first settlement must be the best city, he now discusses societies prior 
to the first settlement, i.e. nomad societies, ‘ hill shepherds (Cp. especially 
note 32 to this chapter.) 

® The quotation is from Marx-Engels, The Communist Manifesto ; cp. 
A Handbook of Marxism (edited by E. Burns, 1935), 22. 

® The quotation is from Adam’s comments on Book VIII of the Republic ; 
see his edition, voL II, 198, note to 544a3. 

10 Cp. Republic, 544c. 

(i) As opposed to my contention that Plato, like many modern 
sociologists since Comte, tries to outline the typical stages of social develop- 
ment, most critics take Plato’s story merely as a somewhat dramatic presenta- 
tion of a purely logical classification of constitutions. But this not only 
contradicts what Plato says (cp. Adam’s note to Rep,, 544c 19, op, ciL, voL II, 
199), but it is also against the whole spirit of Plato’s logic, according to which 
the essence of a thing is to be understood by its original nature, i e. by its 
historical origin. And we must not forget that he uses the same word, ‘ genus 
to mean a class in the logical sense and a race in the biological sense. The 
logical ‘ genus ’ is still identical with the * race ’, in the sense of ‘ offspring of 
the same parent ’. (With this, cp. notes 15-20 to chapter 3, and text, as 
well as notes 23-24 to chapter 5, and text, where the equation nature = origin ~ 
race is discussed.) Accordingly, there is every reason^ for taking what Plato 
says at its face value ; for even if Adam were right when he says {loc. cit,) that 
Plato intends to give a ‘ logical order this order would for him be at the same 
time that of a typical historical development. Adam’s remark {loc. cit.) 
that the order ‘ is primarily determined by psychological and not by historical 
considerations ’ turns, I believe, against him. For he himself points out (for 
instance, op, cit., vol. II, 195, note to 543a, ff.) that Plato ‘ retains throughout 
. . the analogy between the Soul and the City According to Plato’s 
political theory of the soul (which will be discussed in the next chapter), the 
psychological history must run parallel to the social history, and the alleged 
opposition between psychological and historical considerations disappears, 
turning into another argument in favour of our interpretation. 

(2) Exactly the same reply could be made if somebody should argue 
that Plato’s order of the constitution is, fundamentally, not a logical but an 
bthical one ; for the ethical order (and the aesthetic order as 'well) is, in Plato’s 


CHAPTER 4/NOTES 12 - 1 ^ 

philosophy, indistinguishable from the historical order. In this connection, 
it may be remarked that this historicist view provides Piato with a theoretical 
background for Socrates’ eudemonism, i e. for the theory that goodness and 
happiness are identical. This theory is developed, in the Republic (cp esnecially 
580b), in the form of the doctrine that goodness and happiness, or badness 
and unhappiness, are proportional ; and so they must be, if the degree of 
the goodness as well as of the happiness of a man is to be measured by the 
degree in which he resembles our original blessed nature — the perfect Idea of 
man (The fact that Plato’s theory leads, in this point, to a theoretical 
justification of an apparently paradoxical Socratic doctrine may well have 
helped Piato to convince himself that he was only expounding the true Socratic 
creed ; see text to notes 56/57 to chapter 10.) 

(3) Rousseau took over Plato’s classification of institutions {Social Contract, 
Book II, ch. VII, Book III, ch. Ill ff,, cp. also ch. X), It seems however 
that he was not directly influenced by Plato when he revived the Platonic 
Idea of a primitive society (cp., however, notes i to chapter 6 and 14 to 
chapter 9) ; but a direct product of the Platonic Renaissance in Italy was 
Sanazaaro’s most influential Aicadia, with its revival of Plato’s idea of a 
blessed primitive society of Greek (Dorian) hill shepherds. (For this idea of 
Plato’s, cp, text to note 32 to this chapter.) Thus Romanticism (cp. also 
chapter 9) is historically indeed an offspring of Platonism. 

(4) How far the modern histoncism of Comte and Mill, and of Hegel and 
Marx, is influenced by the theistic historicism of Giambattista Vico’s New 
Science ( 1 725) is very hard to say : Vico himself was undoubtedly influenced 
by Piato, as well as by St. Augustine’s De Civitate Dei and Machiavelh’s Dis- 
courses on Livy, Like Plato (cp. ch. 5), Vico identified the ‘ nature ’ of a 
thing with its ‘ origin ’ (cp. Opere, Ferran’s second ed., 1852-4, vol V, p. 99) ; 
and he believed that all nations must pass through the same course of develop- 
ment, according to one universal law. His ‘ nations ’ (like Hegel’s) may thus 
be said to be one of the links between Plato’s ‘ Cities ’ and Toynbee’s 
‘ Civilizations ’. 

^2 Cp. Republic, 549c/d ; the next quotations are op, cit., 55od“e, and later, 
op. cit, 55ia/b. 

Cp. op. cit, 5560. (This passage should be compared with Thucydides, 
III, 82-4, quoted in chapter 10, text to note 12 ) The next quotation is 
op. cit, 557a. ^ 

For Pericles’ democratic programme, see text to note 31, chapter 10, 
note 17 to chapter 6, and note 34 to chapter 10. 

Adam, in his edition of The Republic of Plato, vol. II, 240, note to 559622. 
(The italics in the second quotation are mine.) Adam admits that ‘ the picture 
is doubtless somewhat exaggerated ’ ; but he leaves little doubt that he thinks 
it is, fundamentally, true ‘ for all time 

Adam, loc. cit 

This quotation is from Republic, 5606 (for this and the next quotation, 
cp. Lindsay’s translation) ; the next two quotations are from the same work, 
563 a-b, and d. (See also Adam’s note to 563625 ) It is significant that 
Plato appeals here to the institution of private property, severely attacked m 
other parts of the Republic, as if it were an unchallenged principle of justice. 
It seems that when the property bought is a slave, an appeal to the lawful 
right of the buyer is adequate. 

Another attack upon democracy is that ‘ it tramples under foot ’ the 
educational principle that ‘ no one can grow up to be a good man unless his 
earliest years were given to noble games {Rep., 558b ; see Lindsay’s 
translation; cp. note 68 to chapter 10.) See also the attacks upon equali- 
tarianism quoted in note 14 to chapter 6. 

* For Socrates’ attitude towards his young companions see most of the 

222 CHAPTER 4 /NOTES 1 8-24 

earlier dialogues, but also the Phaedo, where Socrates’ ‘ pleasant, kind, and 
respectful manner in which he listened to the young man’s criticism * is 
described. For Plato’s contrasting attitude, see text to notes 19-21 to 
chapter 7 ; see also the excellent lectures by H. Gherniss, The Riddle of the 
Early Academy (1945), especially pp. 70 and 79 (on the Parmenides i35C-d), and 
cp. notes 18-21 to chapter 7, and text. 

Slavery (see the preceding note) and the Athenian movement against it 
will be further discussed in chapters 5 (notes 13 and text), 10, and 1 1 ; see also 
note 29 to the present chapter. Like Plato, Aristotle (e.g. in PoL, 13 13b 11, 
I3i9b20 ; and m his Constitution of Athens, 59, 5) testifies to Athens’ liberality 
towards slaves ; and so does the Pseudo-Xenophon (cp. his Const, of Athens, 
I, 10 f.) 

Cp. Republic, 577a, f. ; see Adam’s notes to 577a5 and bi2 {op. cit., 
vol. II, 332 f ). See now also the Addendum III (Reply to a Critic), below, 
especially pp 330 f. 

Republic^ 5660 ; cp. note 63 to chapter 10. 

Cp. Statesman (Politicus), goic/d. Although Plato distinguishes six types 
of debased states, he does not introduce any new terms ; the names ‘ monarchy ’ 
(or * kingship ’) and ‘ aristocracy ’ are used in the Republic (445d) of the best 
state itself, and not of the relatively best forms of debased states, as in the 

Cp. Republic, 544d. 

Cp. Statesman, 297c /d : ‘ If the government I have mentioned is the only 
true original, then the others ’ (which are ‘ only copies of this’ ; cp. Qpyb/c) 

‘ must use its laws, and write them down ; this is the only way in which they 
can be preserved ’. (Cp. note 3 to this chapter, and note 18 to chapter 7.) 

* And any violation of the laws should be punished with death, and the most 
severe punishments ; and this is very just and good, although, of course, only 
the second best thing.’ (For the origin of the laws, cp. note 32 (i, a) to this 
chapter, and note 17 (2) to chapter 3.) And in 3000/30 la, f., we read : 

* The nearest approach of these lower forms of government to the true govern- 
ment . , is to follow these written laws and customs. . . When the rich 
rule and imitate the true Form, then the government is called aristocracy ; 
and when they do not heed the (ancient) laws oligarchy,’ etc. It is important 
tonote that not lawfulness or lawlessness in the abstract, but the preservation of 
the ancient institutions of the original or perfect state is the criterion of the 
classification. (This is in contrast to Arhtotle’s Politics, 1292a, where the 
main distinction is whether or not ‘ the law is supreme ’, or, for instance, 
the mob.) 

The passage. Laws, 709e-7l4a, contains several allusions to the States 
man ; for instance, 7iod-e, which introduces, following Herodotus III, 80-82, 
the number of rulers as the principle of classification ; the enumerations of the 
forms of govt rnment in 712c and d ; and 713b, ff , i e. the myth of the perfect 
state in the day of Cronos, ‘ of which the best of our present states are imita- 
tions ’. In view of these allusions, I little doubt that Plato intended his theory 
of the fitness of tyranny for Utopian experiments to be understood as a kind of 
continuation of the story of the Statesman (and thus also of the Republic). — The 
quotations in this paragraph are from the Laws, yogt, and 7JOc/d ; the ‘ re- 
mark from the Laws quoted above * is 797d, quoted in the text to note 3, in this 
chapter. (I agree with E. B. England’s note to this passage, in his edition of 
The Laws of Plato, 1921, vol. II, 258, that it is Plato’s principle that ‘ change is 
detrimental tp the power . . of anything and therefore also to the powder of 
evil ; but I do not agree with him ‘ that change /mm bad ’, viz., to good, is too 
self-evident to be mentioned as an exception ; it is not self-evident from the 
point of view of Plato’s doctrine of the evil nature of change. See also next 

CHAPTER 4 /KOTES 25-27 223 

Cp. Laws, 676b /c (cp. 676a quoted in the text to note 6). In spite 
of Plato’s doctrine that ‘ change is detrimental ’ (cp. the end of the last note), 
E. B. England interprets these passages on change and revolution by giving 
them an optimistic or progressive meaning. He suggests that the object of 
Plato’s search is what ‘ we might call “ the secret of political vitality ” 
(Cp. op. ciL, vol I, 344.) And he interprets this passage on the search for 
the true cause of (detrimental) change as dealing with a search for ‘ the cause 
and nature of the true development of a state, i.e. of its progress towards perfection 
(Italics his ; cp. vol. I, 345 ) This interpretation cannot be correct, for the 
passage in question is an introduction to a story of political decline ; but it 
shows how much the tendency to idealize Plato and to represent him as a 
progressivist blinds even such an excellent critic to his own finding, namely, 
that Plato believed change to be detrimental. 

2® Cp. Republic^ 545d (see also the parallel passage 465b) The next 
quotation is from the Laws^ SSge. (Adam in his edition of the Republic^ 
vol. II, 203, note to 545d2i, refers" to this passage in the Laws.) England, 
in his edition of the Laws, vol. I, 360 f., note to 68365, mentions Republic, 
609a, but neither 545d nor 465b, and supposes that the reference is ‘ to a 
previous discussion, or one recorded in a lost dialogue ’. I do not see why 
Plato should not be alluding to the Republic, by using the fiction that some of 
its topics have been discussed by the present interlocutors. As Cornford 
says, in Plato’s last group of dialogues there is ‘ no motive to keep up the 
illusion that the conversations had really taken place ’ ; and he is also right 
when he says that Plato ‘ was not the slave of his own fictions ’. (Cp. Cornford, 
Platons Cosmology, pp. 5 and 4.) Plato’s law of revolutions was rediscovered, 
without reference to Plato, by V. Pareto ; cp. his Treatise on General Sociology, 
§§ 2054, 2057, 2058. (At the end of § 2055, there is also a theory of arresting 
history.) Rousseau also rediscovered the law. {Social Contract, Book III, 
ch. X ) 

2’ (i) It may be worth noting that the intentionally non-historical traits 
of the best state, especially the rule of the philosophers, are not mentioned 
by Plato in the summary at the beginning of the Timaeus, and that in Book 
VIII of the Republic he assumes that the rulers of the best state are not versed 
in Pythagorean number-mysticism ; cp. Republic, 546c/d, where the rulers 
are said to be ignorant of these mattf'rs. (Cp. also the remark, Rep., 543d/544a, 
according to which the best state of Book VIII can still be surpassed, namely, 
as Adam says, by the city of Books V-VII — the ideal city in heaven.) 

In his book, Platons Cosmology, pp. 6 ff., Cornford reconstructs the outlines 
and contents of Plato’s unfinished trilogy, Timaeus — Critics — Hermocrates, and 
shows how they are related to the historical parts of the Laws (Book III). 
This reconstruction is, I think, a valuable corroboration of my theory that 
Plato’s view of the world was fundamentally historical, and that his interest 
in ‘ how it generated ’ (and how it decays) is linked with his theory of Ideas, 
and indeed based on it. But if that is so, then there is no reason why we 
should assume that the later books of the Republic ‘ started from the question 
how It ’ (i.e. the city) * might be realized in the future and sketched its possible 
decline through lower forms of politics ’ (Cornford, op. ciL, 6 ; italics mine) ; 
instead we should look upon the Books VIII and IX of th.Q Republic ,1x1 view of 
their close parallelism with the Third Book of the Laws, as a simplified his- 
torical sketch of the actual decline of the ideal city of the past, and as an 
explanation of the origin of the existing states, analogous to the greater task set 
by Plato for himself in the Timaeus, in the unfinished trilogy, and m the Laws. 

(2) In connection with my remark, later in the paragraph, that Plato 
* certainly knew that he did not possess the necessary data *, see for instance 
Laws, 683d, and England’s note to 683d2. 

(3) To- my remark, further down in the paragraph, that Plato recognized 

224 CHAPTER 4/NOTES 28-29 

the Cretan and Spartan societies as petrified or arrested forms (and to the 
remark in the next paragraph that Plato’s best state ismot only a class state but 
a caste state) the following may be added, (Cp. also note 20 to this chapter, 
and 24 to chapter 10.) 

In LawSi 797d (in the introduction to the ‘ important pronouncement *, 
as England calls it, quoted in the text to note 3 to this chapter), Plato makes it 
perfectly clear that his Cretan and Spartan interlocutors are aware of the 
‘ arrested ’ character of their social institutions ; Clenias, the Cretan inter- 
locutor, emphasizes that he is anxious to listen to any defence of the archaic 
character of a state. A little later (799a), and in the same context, a direct 
reference is made to the Egyptian method of arresting the development of 
institutions ; surely a clear indication that Plato recognized a tendency in 
Crete and Sparta parallel to that of Egypt, namely, to arrest all social change. 

In this context, a passage in the Timaeus (see especially 24a-b) seems 
impoitant. In this passage, Plato tries to show {a) that a class division very 
similar to that of the Republic was established in Athens at a very ancient 
period of its pre-historical development, and (b) that these institutions were 
closely akin to the caste system of Egypt (whose arrested caste institutions 
he assumes to have derived from his ancient Athenian state). Thus Plato 
himself acknowledges by implication that the ideal ancient and perfect state 
of the Republic is a caste state. It is interesting that Crantor, first commentator 
on the TimaeuSy reports, only two generations after Plato, that Plato had been 
accused of deserting the Athenian tradition, and of becoming a disciple of the 
Egyptians, (Cp. Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, Germ ed , II, 476 ) Crantor 
alludes perhaps to Isocrates’ Busiris, 8, quoted in note 3 to chapter 13. 

For the problem of the castes m the Republic, see further moie notes 31 and 
32 (i, d) to this chapter, note 40 to chapter 6, and notes 11-14 to chapter 8. 
A. E. Taylor, Plato : The Man and His Work, p. 269 f., forcefully denounces 
the view that Plato favoured a caste state. 

Cp. Republic, 416a. The problem is considered more fully in this 
chapter, text to note 35. (For the problem of caste, mentioned in the next 
paragraph, see notes 27 (3) and 31 to this chapter.) 

For Plato’s advice against legislating for the common people with their 
‘ vulgar market quarrels etc., see Republic, 425b-427a/b ; especially 425d-e 
and 427a. These passages, of course, attack Athenian democracy, and all 
* piecemeal ’ legislation in the sense of chapter 9. * That this is so is also 

seen by Cornford,- The Republic of Plato (1941) ; for he writes, in a note to a 
passage in which Plato recommends Utopian engineering (it is Republic 50od, f., 
the recommendation of * canvas-cleaning ’ and of a romantic radicalism ; cp. 
note 12 to chapter 9, and text) : ‘ Contrast the piecemeal tinkering at reform 
satirized at 4250 . Cornford does not seem to like piecemeal reforms, 
and he seems to prefer Plato’s methods ; but his and my interpretation of 
Plato’s intentions seem to coincide.* 

The four quotations further down in this paragraph are from the Republic, 
37 1 d/e ; 463a-b (* supporters ’ and ‘ employers ’) ; 549a ; and 47ib/c. Adam 
comments {op. cit., vol. I, 97, note to 371032): ‘ Rato does not admit slave 
labour in his city, unless perhaps in the persons of barbarians,’ I agree that 
Plato opposes in the Republic (469b-470c) the enslavement of Greek prisoners 
of war ; but he goes on (in 47ib-c) to encourage that of barbarians by Greeks, 
and especially by the citizens of his jDest city. (This appears to be also the 
opinion of Tarn ; cp. note 13 (2) to chapter 15.) And Plato violently attacked 
the Athenian movement against slavery, and insisted on the legal rights 01 
property when the property was a slave (cp. text to notes 17 and t 8 to this 
chapter). As is shown also by the third quotation (from Rep., 548e/549a) in 
the paragraph to which this note is appended, he did not abolish slavery 
in his best city, (See also Rep., sgoc/d, where he defends the demand that 

CHAPTER 4 /NOTES 30-32 225 

the coarse and \Tjlgar should be the slaves of the best man.) A. E. Taylor 
IS therefore wrong when he twice asserts (in his Plato^ 1908 and 1914, pp. 197 
and 1 18) that Plato implies ‘ that there is no class of slaves in the community 
For similar views in Taylor’s Plato : The Man and His Work (1926), cp. end of 
note 27 to this chapter. 

Plato’s treatment of slavery in the Statesman throws, I think, much light 
on his attitude in the Republic, For here, too, he does not speak much about 
slaves, although he clearly assumes that there are slaves in his state. (See 
his characteristic remark, 289b/c, that ‘ all property in tame animals, except 
slaves ’ has been already dealt with ; and a similarly characteristic remark, 
309a, that true kingscraft ‘ makes slaves of those who wallow in ignorance 
and abject humility ’. The reason why Plato does not say very much about 
the slaves is quite clear from 289c, ff., especially 289d/e. He does not see a 
major distinction between ® slaves and other servants such as labourers, 
tradesmen, merchants (i e. all * banausic ’ persons who earn money cp. 
note 4 to chapter ii) ; slaves are distinguished from the others merely as 
‘ servants acquired by purchase In other words, he is so high above the 
baseborn that it is hardly worth his while to bother about subtle differences. 
All this is very similar to the Republic, only a little more explicit. (See also 
note 57 (2) to chapter 8 ) 

For Plato’s treatment of slavery in the Laws, see especially G. R. Morrow, 

‘ Plato and Greek Slavery ’ {Mind, N S , voL 48, 186-201 ; see also p. 402), 
an article which gives an excellent and critical survey of the subject, and 
reaches a very just conclusion, although the author is, in my opinion, still a 
little biased in favour of Plato. (The article does not perhaps sufficiently 
stress the fact that in Plato’s day an anti-slavery movement was well on the 
way ; cp. note 13 to chapter 5.) 

^0 The quotation is from Plato’s summary of the Republic in the Timaeus 
(i8c/d). — With the remark concerning the lack, of novelty of the suggested 
community of women and children, compare Adam’s edition of The Republic 
of Plato, vol. I, p. 292 (note to 457b, ff.) and p. 308 (note to 463C17), as well 
as pp. 345-55, esp. 354 ; with the Pythagorean element in Plato’s communism, 
cp. op. ciL, p. 199, note to 4i6d22. (For the precious metals, see note 24 to 
chapter 10. For the common meals, see note 34 to chapter 6 ; and for the 
communist principle in Plato and his successors, note 29 (2) to chapter 5, and 
the passages mentioned there.) 

The passage quoted is from Republic,. 434b/c. In demanding a caste 
state, Plato hesitates for a long time. This is quite apart from the ‘ lengthy 
preface ’ to the passage in question (which will be discussed in chapter 6 ; 
cp. notes 24 and 40 to that chapter) ; for when first speaking about these 
matters, in 415a, ff, he speaks as though a rise from the lower to the upper 
classes were permissible, provided that in the lower classes ‘ children were 
born with an admixture of gold and silver’ (415c), i e. of upper class blood 
and virtue. But in 434b-d, and, even more clearly, in 547a, this permission 
is, in effect, withdrawn ; and in 547a any admixture of the metals is declared 
an impurity which must be fatal to the state. See also text to notes 11-14 
to chapter 8 (and note 27 (3) to the present chapter). 

Cp. the Statesman, 2710. The passages in the Laws about the primitive 
nomadic shepherds and their patriarchs are 6770-6806. The passage quoted 
is Laws, 68oe. The passage quoted next is from the Myth of the Earthborn, 
Republic, 4i5d/e. The concluding quotation of the paragraph is from Republic, 
44od. — It may be necessary to add some comments on certain remarks in the 
paragraph to which this note is appended. 

(i) It is stated in the text that it is not very clearly explained how the 
‘ settlement ’ came about. Both in the Laws and in the Republic we first 
hear (see {a) and {c), below) of a kind of agreement or social contract (for the 



social contract, cp. note 29 to chapter 5 and notes 43-54 to chapter 6, and 
text), and later (see (b) and {c), below) of a forceful subjugation. 

(a) In the Laws, the various tribes of hill shepherds settle in the plains after 
having joined together to form larger war bands whose laws are arrived at 
by an agreement or contract, made by arbiters vested with royal powers 
(68 1 b and c/d ; for the origin of the laws described in 68 ib, cp. note 17 (2) 
to chapter 3). But now Plato becomes evasive. Instead of describing how 
these bands settle in Greece, and how the Greek cities were founded, Plato 
switches over to Homer’s story of the foundation of Troy, and to the Trojan 
war. From there, Plato says, the Achaeans returned under the name of 
Dorians, and ‘ the rest of the story . . is part of Lacedaemonian history ’ 
(6820) ‘ for we have reached the settlement of Lacedaemon ’ (682e/683a). 
So far we have heard nothing about the manner of this settlement, and there 
follows at once a further digression (Plato himself speaks about the ‘ roundabout 
track of the argument ’) until we get ultimately (in 683c /d) the ‘ hint ’ 
mentioned in the text ; see (b), 

(b) The statement in the text that we get a hint that the Dorian ‘ settle- 
ment ’ in the Peloponnese was in fact a violent subjugation, refers to the Laws 
(683c/d), where Plato introduces what are actually his first historical remarks 
on Sparta. He says that he begins at the time when the whole of the Pelopon- 
nese was ‘ practically subjugated ’ by the Dorians. In the Menexenus (whose 
genuineness can hardly be doubted ; cp. note 35 to chapter 10) there is in 
245c an allusion to the fact that the Peloponnesians were ‘ immigrants from 
abroad ’ (as Grote puts it : cp. his Plato, III, p. 5). 

(c) In the Republic (369b) the city is founded by workers with a view to 
the advantages of a division of labour and of co-operation, in accordance with 
the contract theory. 

{d) But later '(in Rep,, 4i5d/e ; see the quotation in the text, to this 
paragraph) we get a description of the triumphant invasion of a warrior class 
of somewhat mysterious origin — the ‘ earthborn . The decisive passage of 
this description states that the earthborn must look round to find for their 
camp the most suitable spot (literally) ‘ for keeping down those within 
i.e. for keeping down those already living in the city, i.e. for keeping down the 

(e) In the Statesman (271a, f) these ‘earthborn’ are identified with the 
very early nomad hill shepherds of the pre-settlement period. Cp. also the 
allusion to the autochthonous grasshoppers in the Symposium, 191b ; cp. 
note 6 (4) to chapter 3, and ii (2)^ to chapter 8. 

(/} To sum up, it seems that Plato had a fairly clear idea of the Dorian 
conquest, which he preferred, for obvious reasons, to veil in mystery. It also 
seems that there was a tradition that the conquering war hordes were of 
nomad descent. 

. (2) With the remark later in the text in this paragraph regarding Plato’s 
‘ continuous emphasis ’ on the fact that ruling is shepherding, cp., for instance, 
the following passages : Republic, 343b, where the idea is introduced ; 345c, f., 
where, in the form of the simile of the good shepherd, it becomes one of the cen- 
tral topics of the investigation ; 375a-376b, 404a, 440d, 45ib-e, 459a~46oc, 
and 466c~d (quoted in note 30 to chapter 5), where the auxiliaries are likened to 
sheep-dogs and where their breeding and education are discussed accordingly ; 
416a, ff., where the problem of the wolves without and within the state is 
introduced ; cp. furthermore the Statesman, where the idea is continued over 
many pages, especially 26id-276d. With regard to the Laws, I may refer to 
the passage (6940), where Plato says of Gyrus that he had acquired for his sons 
‘ cattle and sheep and many herds of men and other animals (Cp. also 
Laws, 735, and Theaet., I74d.) 

(3) With all this, cp. also A, J. Toynbee, A Study of History, esp. voL III, 

CHAPTER 4/NOTES 33-34 227 

pp. 32 (n. i), where A. H. Lybyer, The Government of the Ottoman Empire, etc., is 
quoted, 33 (n. 2), 50-100 ; see more especially his remark on the conquering 
nomads (p. 22) who ‘ deal with . . men and on Plato’s ' human watch- 
dogs ’ (p. 94, n. 2). I have been much stimulated by Toynbee’s brilliant ideas 
and much encouraged by many of his remarks which I take as corroborating 
my interpretations, and which I can value the more highly the more Toynbee’s 
and my fundamental assumptions seem to disagree. I also owe to Toynbee a 
number of terms used in my text, especially ‘ human cattle ‘ human herd ’ 
and ‘ human watch-dog 

Toynbee’s Study of History is, from my point of view, a model of what I 
call historicism ; I need not say much more to express my fundamental 
disagreement with it ; and a number of special points of disagreement will 
be discussed at various places (cp. notes 43 and 45 (2) to this chapter, notes 
7 and 8 to chapter 10, and chapter 24 ; also, my criticism of Toynbee in chapter 
24, and in The Poverty of Historicism, p no ff). But it contains a wealth of 
interesting and stimulating ideas. Regarding Plato, Toynbee emphasizes a 
number of points in which I can follow him, especially that Plato’s best state 
IS inspired by his experience of social revolutions and by his wish to arrest 
all change, and that it is a kind of arrested Sparta (which itself was also 
arrested). In spite of these points of agreement, there is even in the inter- 
pretation of Plato a fundamental disagreement between Toynbee’s views and 
my own. Toynbee regards Plato’s best state as a typical (reactionary) 
Utopia, while I interpret its major part, in connection with what I consider 
as Plato’s general theory of change, as an attempt to reconstruct a primi- 
tive form of society Nor do I think that Toynbee would agree with my 
interpretation of Plato’s story of the period prior to the settlement, and of 
the settlement itself, outlined in this note and the text ; for Toynbee says 
{op, city vol. Ill, 80) that ‘ the Spartan society was not of nomadic origin 
Toynbee strongly emphasizes {op, cit. III, 50 ff.) the peculiar character of the 
Spartan society, which, he says, was arrested in its development owing to a 
superhuman effort to keep down their ‘ human cattle But I think that this 
emphasis on the peculiar situation of Sparta makes it difficult to understand 
the similarities between the institutions of Sparta and Crete which Plato found 
so striking {Rep., 544c ; Laws, 683a). These, I believe, can be explained only 
as arrested forms of very ancient tribal institutions, which must be considerably 
older than the effort of the Spartans in the second Messenian war (about 
650-620 B G. ; cp. Toynbee, op. at.. Ill, 53). Since the conditions of the 
survival of these institutions were so very different in the two localities, their 
similarity* is a strong argument in favour of their being primitive and against 
an explanation by a factor which affects only one of them. 

* For problems of the Dorian Settlement, see also R. Eisler in Caucasia, 
vol. V, 1928, especially p. 113, note 84, where the term ‘ Hellenes ’ is trans- 
lated as the settlers ’, and ‘ Greeks ’ as the ‘ graziers ’ — i.e. the cattle-breeders 
or nomads. The same author has shown {Orphisch-Diomsische Mysterienge- 
danken, 1925, p. 58, note 2) that the idea of the God-Shepherd is of Orphic 
origin. At the same place, the sheep-dogs of God {Domini Canes) are men- 

The fact that education is in Plato’s state a class prerogative has been 
overlooked by some enthusiastic educationists who credit Plato with the idea 
of making education independent of financial means ; they do not see that 
the evil is the class prerogative as such, and that it is comparatively unimportant 
whether this prerogative is based upon the possession of money or upon any 
other criterion by which membership of the ruling class is determined. Cp. 
notes 12 and 13 to chapter 7, and text. Concerning the carrying of arms, see 
also Laws, 753b. 

Cp. Republic, 460c. (See also note 31 to this chapter.) Regarding 

228 CHAPTER 4/NOTES 35-39 

Plato’s recommendation of infanticide, see Adam, op. cit., vol. I, p, 299, note 
to 460c 1 8, and pp. 357 ff. Although Adam rightly insists that Plato was in 
favour of infanticide, and although he rejects as ‘ irrelevant ’ all attempts ‘ to 
acquit Plato of sanctioning ’ such a dreadful practice, he tries to excuse Plato 
by pointing out ‘ that the practice was widely prevalent in ancient Greece 
But it was not so in Athens. Plato chooses throughout to prefer the ancient 
Spartan barbarism and racialism to the enlightenment of Pericles’ Athens ; 
and for this choice he must be held responsible. For a hypothesis explaining 
the Spartan practice, see note 7 to chapter 10 (and text) ; see also the cross 
references given there. 

The later quotations in this paragraph which favour applying the principles 
of animal breeding to man are from Republic^ 459b (cp. note 39 to chapter 8, 
and text) \ those on the analogy between dogs and warriors, etc., from the 
Republic, 404a ; 375a ; 376a/b ; and 376b. See also note 40 (2) to chapter 5, 
and the next note here. 

The tw'o quotations before the note-number are both from Republic, 
375b. The next following quotation is from 416a (cp. note 28 to this chapter) ; 
the remaining ones are from 375c-e. The problem of blending opposite 
‘ natures ’ (or even Forms ; cp. notes 18-20 and 40 (2) to chapter 5, and text 
and note 39 to chapter 8) is one of Plato’s favourite topics. (In the Statesman, 
2836, f , and later in Aristotle, it merges into the doctrine of the mean.) 

The quotations are from Republic, 410c ; 4iod ; 4100 ; 4iie/4i2a and 


In the Laws (680b, ff.) Plato himself treats Crete with some irony because 
of its barbarous ignorance of literature. This ignorance extends even to 
Homer, whom the Cretan interlocutor does not know, and of whom he says : 

‘ foreign poets are very little read by Cretans ’. (‘ But they are read in Sparta ’, 

rejoins the Spartan interlocutor ) For Plato’s preference for Spartan customs, 
see also note 34 to chapter 6, and the text to note 30 to the present 

For Plato’s view on Sparta’s treatment of the human cattle, see note 
29 to this chapter. Republic, 5480 /549a, where the timocratic man is compared 
with Plato’s brother Glaucon : ^ He would be harder ’ (than Glaucon) ‘ and 
less musical ’ ; the continuation of this passage is quoted in the text to note 29. 
— Thucydides reports (IV, 80) the treacherous murder of the 2,000 helots ; 
the best of the helots were selected for death by a promise of freedom. It 
is almost certain that Plato knew Thucydides well, and we can be sure that 
he had in addition more direct sources of information. 

For Plato’s views on Athens’ slack treatment of slaves, see note 18 to this 

Considering the decidedly anti-Athenian and therefore anti-literary 
tendency of the Republic, it is a little difficult to explain why so many educa- 
tionists are so enthusiastic about Plato’s educational theories. I can see only 
three likely explanations. Either they do not understand the Republic, in 
spite of Its most outspoken hostility towards the then existing Athenian literary 
education ; or they are simply flattered by Plato’s rhetorical emphasis upon 
the political power of education, just as so many philosophers are, and even 
some musicians (see text to note 41) ; or both. 

It is also difficult to see how lovers of Greek art and literature can find 
encouragement in Plato, who, especially in the Tenth Book of the Republic, 
launched a most violent attack against all poets and tragedians, and especially 
against Homer (and even Hesiod). See Republic, 6ooa, where Homer is put 
below the level of a good technician or mechanic (who would be generally 
despised by Plato as banausic and depraved ; cp. Rep., 4950 and 590c, and. 
note 4 to chapter ii) ; Republic, 6ooc, where Homer is put below the level 
of the Sophists Pr'otagoras and Prodicus (see also Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, 

CHAPTER 4/nOTES 4O-4I 229 

German ed., II, 401) ; and Republic^ 6o5a/b, where poets are bluntly forbidden 
to enter into any well-governed city. 

These clear expressions of Plato’s attitude, however, are usually passed 
over by the commentators, who dwell, on the other hand, on remarks like the 
one made by Plato in preparing his attack on Homer (‘ . . though love and 
admiration for Homer hardly allow me to say what I have to say ’ ; Rep,^ 
595b). Adam comments on this (note to 595bii) by saying that * Plato 
speaks with real feeling ’ ; but I think that Plato’s remark only illustrates a 
method fairly generally adopted in the Republic, namely, that of making some 
concession to the reader’s sentiments (cp. chapter 10, especially text to note 65) 
before the mam attack upon humanitarian ideas is launched. 

For the rigid censorship aimed at class discipline, see Republic, 377e, ff., 
and especially 378c : ‘ Those who are to be the guardians of our city ought 
to consider it the most pernicious crime to quarrel easily with one another.’ 
It is interesting that Plato does not state this political principle at once, when 
introducing his theory of censorship in 3760, ff , but that he speaks first only 
of truth, beauty, etc. The censorship is further tightened up in 595a, ff,, 
especially 6o5a/lD (see the foregoing note, and notes 18-22 to chapter 7, and 
text). For the role of censorship in the Laws, see 801 c/d. — See also the next 

For Plato’s forgetfulness of his principle {Rep,, 4ioc-4i2b, see note 36 
to this chapter) that music has to strengthen the gentle element in man as 
opposed to the fierce, see especially 399a, f; where modes of music are 
demanded which do not make men soft, but are ‘ fit for men who are warriors ’. 
Cp. also the next note, (2). — It must be made clear that Plato has not 
* forgotten ’ a previously announced principle, but only that principle to w^hich 
his discussion is going to lead up. 

(i) For Plato’s attitude towards music, especially music proper, see, for 
instance, Republic, 397b, ff. ; ggSe, ff. ; 400a, ff. ; 410b, 424b, f., 546d. 
Laws, 657e, ff ; 673a, 700b, ff., 798d, ff, 8oid, ff, 802b, ff, 8i6c. His 
attitude is, fundamentally, that one must ‘ beware of changing to a new 
mode of music ; this endangers everything ’ since ‘ any change in the style 
of music always leads to a change in the most important institutions of 
the whole state. So says Damon, and I believe him.’ {Rep,, 424c.) Plato, 
as usual, follows the Spartan example. Adam {op, cit , vol. I, p. 216, note 
to 424C20 ; italics mine ; cp. also his references) says that ‘ the connection 
between musical and political changes . . was recognized universally 
throughout Gigece, and particularly at Sparta, where . . Timotheus had his 
lyre confiscated for adding to it four new strings That Sparta’s procedure 
inspired Plato cannot be doubted ; its universal recognition throughout 
Greece, and especially in Periclean Athens, is most improbable. (Cp. (2) of 
this note.) 

(2) In the text I have called Plato’s attitude towards music (cp. especially 
Rep., 398e, ff. ) superstitious and backward if compared with ‘ a more enlightened 
contemporary criticism ’. The criticism I have in mind is that of the 
anonymous w'liter, probably a musician of the fifth (or the early fourth) 
century, the aiithor of an address (possibly an Olympian oration) which is 
now known as the thirteenth piece of Grenfell and Hunt, The Hibeh Papyri, 
1906, pp 45 ff It seems possible that the writer is one of* the various musicians 
who criticize Socrates ’ (i.e. the * Socrates ’ of Plato’s Republic), mentioned by 
Aristotle (in the equally superstitious passage of his Politics, 1342b, where he 
repeats most of Plato’s arguments) ; but the criticism of the anonymous author 
goes much further than Aristotle indicates. Plato (and Aristotle) believed 
that certain musical modes, for instance, the * slack ’ Ionian and Lydian modes, 
made people soft and effeminate, while others, especially the Dorian mode, 
made them brave. This view is attacked by the anonymous author. * They 

230 CHAPTER 4 /notes 42-43 

say he writes, ‘ that some modes produce temperate and others just men ; 
others, again, heroes, and others cowards ’ He brilliantly exposes the silliness 
of this view by pointing out that some of the most war-like of the Gieek tribes 
use modes reputed to produce cowards, while certain professional (opera) 
singers habitually sing in the ‘ heroic ’ mode without ever showing signs of 
becoming heroes. This criticism might have been directed against the 
Athenian musician Damon, often quoted by Plato as an authority, a friend 
of Pericles (who was liberal enough to tolerate a pro-Spartan attitude in the 
field of artistic criticism). But it might easily have been directed against 
Plato himself. For Damon, see Diels ^ ; for a hypothesis concerning the 
anonymous author, see ibid,y vol. II, p. 334, note. 

(3) In view of the fact that I am attacking a ‘ reactionary ’ attitude 
towards music, I may perhaps remark that my attack is in no way inspired 
by a personal sympathy for ‘ progress ’ in music. In fact, I happen to like 
old music (the older the better) and to dislike modern music intensely (especi- 
ally most works written since the day when Wagner began to write music). 

I am altogether against ‘ futurism ’, whether in the field of art or of morals 
(cp. chapter 22, and note 19 to chaptei 25.) But I am also against imposing 
one’s likes and dislikes upon others, and against censorship in such matters. 
We can love and hate, especially in art, without favouring legal measures for 
suppressing w^hat we hate, or for canonizing what we love. 

Cp. Republic^ 5373- ; and 4660-4670, 

The characterization of modern totalitarian education is due to A. Kolnai, 
The War against the West (1938), p. 318. 

Plato’s remarkable theory that the state, i e. centralized and organized 
political power, originates through a conquest (the subjugation of a sedentary 
agricultural population by nomads or hunters) was, as far as I know, first 
re-discovered (if we discount some remarks by Machiavelli) by Hume in his 
criticism of the historical version of the contract theory (cp his Essays, 
Moral, Political, and Literary, voL II, 1752, Essay XII, Of the Original 
Contract) : — ‘ Almost all the governments Hume writes, ‘ which exist at 
present, or of which there remains any record in story, have been founded 
originally, either on usurpation or conquest, or both . And he points 
out that for ‘an artful and bold man . . , it is often easy . . , by employing 
sometimes violence, sometimes false pretences, to establish his dominion over 
a people a hundred times more numerous than his partizans. . . By such 
arts as these, many governments have been established ; and this is all the 
original contract, which they have to boast of ’ The theory was next revived 
by Renan, in What is a Nation ^ (1882), and by Nietzsche in his Genealogy of 
Morals (1887) ; see the third German edition of 1894, P* 9^* latter 

writes oi the origin of the ‘ state ’ (without reference to Hume) : ‘ Some 
horde of blonde beasts, a conquering master race with a war-like organiza- 
tion . . lay their terrifying paws heavily upon a population which is perhaps 
immensely superior in — numbers. . . This is the way in which the “ state ” 
originates upon earth ; I think that the sentimentality which lets it originate 
with a “ contract ”, is dead.’ This theoiy appeals to Nietzsche because he 
likes these blonde beasts. But it has aLo been proffered more recently by 
F. Oppenheimer {The State, transl. Gitterman, 1914, p. 68) ; by a Marxist, 
K. Kautsky (in his book on The Materialist Interpretation of History) ; and by 
W. G. Macleod {The Origin and History of Politics, 1931). I think it very 
likely that something of the kind described by Plato, Hume, and Nietzsche 
has happened in many, if not in all, cases. I am speaking only about ‘ states ’ 
in the sense of organized and even centralized political power. 

I may mention that Toynbee has a very different theory. But before 
discussing it, I wish first to make it clear that from the anti-historicist point 
of view, the question is of no great importance. It is perhaps interesting in 

CHAPTER 4/NOTES 44-45 23 1 

itself to consider how ' states ’ originated, but it has no bearing whatever upon 
the sociology of states, as I understand it, i.e. upon political technology (see 
chapters 3, 9, and 25). 

Toynbee’s theory does not confine itself to ‘ states ’ in the sense of organized 
and centralized political power. He discusses, rather, the ‘ origin of civiliza- 
tions But here begins the difficulty ; for some of his ‘ civilizations ’ are 
states (as here described), some are groups or sequences of states, and some 
are societies like that of the Eskimos, which are not states ; and if it is ques- 
tionable whether ‘ states ’ originate according to one single scheme, then 
it must be even more doubtful when we consider a class of such diverse social 
phenomena as the early Egyptian and Mesopotamian states and their institu- 
tions and technique on the one side, and the Eskimo way of living on the other. 

But we may concentrate on Toynbee’s description (A Study of History, 
voL I, pp. 305 ff ) of the origin of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian ‘ civiliza- 
tions His theory is that the challenge of a difficult jungle environment rouses 
a response from ingenious and enterprising leaders , they lead their followers 
into the valleys which they begin to cultivate, and found states. This 
(Hegelian and Bergsonian) theory of the creative genius as a cultural and 
political leader appears to me most romantic. If we take Egypt, then we 
must look, first of all, for the origin of the caste system. This, I believe, is 
most likely the result of conquests, just as in India where every new wave of 
conquerors imposed a new caste upon the old ones. But there are other 
arguments. Toynbee himself favours a theory which is probably correct, 
namely, that animal breeding and especially animal training is a later, a 
more advanced and a more difficult stage of development than mere agri- 
culture, and that this advanced step is taken by the nomads of the steppe. 
But in Egypt we find both agriculture and animal breeding, and the same 
holds for most of the early ‘ states ’ (though not for all the American ones, 
I gather). This seems to be a sign that these states contain a nomadic element ; 
and it seems only natural to venture the hypothesis that this element is due to 
nomad invaders imposing their rule, a caste rule, upon the original agri- 
cultural population. This theory disagrees with TToynbee’s contention {op. 
cit. III, 23 f.) that nomad-built states usually wither away very quickly. 
But the fact that many of the early caste states go in for the breeding of animals 
has to be explained somehow. 

The idea tha^ nomads or even hunters constituted the original upper 
class is corroborated by the age-old and still surviving upper-class tradition 
according to which war, hunting, and horses are the symbols of the leisured 
classes ; a tradition which formed the basis of Aristotle’s ethics and politics, 
and which is still alive, as Veblen ( The Theory of the Leisure Class) and Toynbee 
have shown ; and to this evidence we can perhaps add the animal breeder’s 
belief in racialism, and especially in the racial superiority of the upper 
class. The latter belief which is so pronounced in caste states and in Plato 
and in Aristotle is held by Toynbee to be ‘ one of the . . sins of our * . 
modern age ’ and ‘ something alien from the Hellenic genius ’ {op. ciL, III, 
93). But although many Greeks may have developed beyond racialism, it 
seems likely that Plato’s and Aristotle’s theories are based on old traditions ; 
especially in view of the fact that racial ideas played such a rdle in Sparta. 

Cp. Laws, Gg^aSgBa. 

(i) Spengler’s Decline of the West is not in my opinion to be taken 
seriously. But it is a symptom ; it is the theory of one who believes in an 
upper class which is facing defeat. Like Plato, Spengler tries to show that 
‘ the world ’ is to be blamed, with its general law of decline and death. And 
like Plato, he demands (in his sequel, Prussianism and Socialism) a new order, 
a desperate experiment to stem the forces of history, a regeneration of the 
Prussian ruling class by the adoption of a ‘ socialism ’ or communism, and of 

232 CHAPTER 4 /NOTE 45 

economic abstinence. — Concerning Spengler, I largely agree with L. Nelson 
who published his criticism under a long ironical title whose beginning may 
be translated : ‘ Witchcraft : Being an Initiation into the Secrets of Oswald 
Spengler’s Art of Fortune Telling, and a Most Evident Proof of the Irrefutable 
Truth of His Soothsaying etc. I think that this is a just characterization of 
Spengler. Nelson, I may add, was one of the first to oppose what I call 
histoiicism (following here Kant in his criticism of Herder ; cp. chapter 12 
note 56) 

(2) My remark that Spengler’s is not the last Decline and Fall is meant 
especially as an allusion to Toynbee. Toynbee’s work is so superior to 
Spengler’s that I hesitate to mention it in the same context ; but the superiority 
IS due mainly to Toynbee’s wealth of ideas and to his superior knowledge 
(which manifests itself in the fact that he does not, as Spengler does, deal 
with everything under the sun at the same time) 'But the aim and method 
of the investigation is similar. It is most decidedly historicist. (Cp. my 
criticism of Toynbee in The Poverty of Historicism^ p. 1 10 ff) And it is, funda- 
mentally, Hegelian (although I do not see that Toynbee is aware of this 
fact). His ‘criterion of the growth of civilizations’ which is ‘progress 
towards self-determination ’ shows this clearly enough ; for Hegel’s law of 
progress towards ‘ self-consciousness ’ and ‘ freedom ’ can be only too easily 
recognized, (Toynbee’s Hegelianism seems to come somehow through 
Bradley, as may be seen, for instance, by his remarks on relations, op, cit., Ill, 
223 : ‘ The very concept of “ relations ” between “ things ” or “ beings ” 
involves ’ a ‘ logical contradiction. . . How is this contradiction to be 
transcended ? ’ (I cannot enter here into a discussion of the problem of 
relations. But I may state dogmatically that all problems concerning relations 
can be reduced, by certain simple methods of modern logic, to problems 
concerning properties, or classes ; in other words, peculiar philosophical difficulties 
concerning relations do not exist. The method mentioned is due to N. Wiener and 
K, Kuratowski ; see Quine , .4 System of Logistic^ i934> PP* 16 ff.). Now I do 
not believe that to classify a work as belonging to a certain school is to dismiss 
it ; but in the case of Hegelian historicism I think that it is so, for reasons to 
be discussed in the second volume of this book. 

Concerning Toynbee’s historicism, I wish to make it especially clear that 
I doubt very much indeed whether civilizations are born, grow, break down, 
and die. I am obliged to stress this point because I myself use some of the 
terms used by Toynbee, in so far as I speak of die ‘ breakdown ’ and of the 
‘ arresting ’ of societies. But I wish to make it clear that my term ‘ break- 
down ’ refers not to all kinds of civilizations but to one particular kind of 
phenomenon — to the of bewilderment connected with the dissolution of 

the magical or tribal * closed society ’. Accordingly, I do not believe, as 
Toynbee does, that Greek society suffered ‘ its breakdown ’ in the period of the 
Peloponnesian war ; and I find the symptoms of the breakdown which 
Toynbee describes much earlier. (Cp. with this notes 6 and 8 to chapter 10, 
and text.) Regarding ‘ arrested ’ societies, I apply this term exclusively, 
either to a society that clings to its magical forms through closing itself up, by 
force, against the influence of an open society, or to a society that attempts to 
return to the tribal cage. 

Also I do not think that our Western civilization is just one member of a 
species, I think that there are many closed societies who may suffer all kinds of 
fates ; but an ‘ open society ’ can, I suppose, only go on, or be arrested and 
forced back into the cage, i.e. to the beasts. (Cp. also chapter 10, especially 
the last note ) 

(3) Regarding the Decline and Fall stories, I may mention that nearly 
all of them stand under the influence of Heraclitus’ remark : * They fill their 
bellies like the beasts and of Plato’s theory of the low animal instincts. I 


mean to say that they all try to show that the decline is due to an adoption 
(by the ruling class) of these ‘ lower ’ standards which are allegedly natural 
to the working classes. In other words, and putting the matter crudely but 
bluntly, the theory is that civilizations, like the Persian and tiie Roman 
empires, decline owing to overfeeding. (Cp. note 19 to chapter 10.) 


1 The ‘ charmed circle ’ is a quotation from Burnet, Greek Philosophy, I, 
106, where similar problems are treated- I do not, however, agree with 
Burnet that ‘ in early days the regularity of human life had been far more 
clearly apprehended than the even course of nature This presupposes the 
establishment of a differentiation which, I believe, is characteristic of a later 
period, i.e. the period of the dissolution of the * charmed circle of law and 
custom h Moreover, natural periods (the seasons, etc. ; cp note 6 to chapter 
2, and Plato (?), Epinomis, 978d, ff.) must have been apprehended in very 
early days. — For the distinction between natural and normative laws, sec 
esp. note 18 (4) to this chapter. 

2 * Cp, R. Eisler, The Royal Art of Asti ology. Eisler says that the pccuLaiities 
of the movement of the planets w^ere interpreted, by the Babylonian ‘ tablet 
writers who produced the Library of Assurbanipal ’ [op, cit , 288), as ‘dictated 
by the “ laws ” or “ decisions ” ruling “ heaven and earth ’’ [pinshte shame u 
irsiti), pronounced by the creator god at the beginning. * [ibid , 232 f ) And 
he points out [ibid,, 288) that the idea of ‘ universal laws ’ (of nature) originates 
with this ‘ mythological . . concept of . . “ decrees of heaven and earth 

For the passage from Heraclitus, cp. D®, B 29, and note 7 (2) to chapter 2 ; 
also note 6 to that chapter, and text. See also Burnet, loc. cit , who gives a 
different interpretation ; he thinks that ‘ when the regular course of nature 
began to be observed, no better name could be found for it than Right or 
Justice . . which properly meant the unchanging custom that guided human 
life.’ I do not believe that the term meant first something social and was then 
extended, but I think that both social and natural regularities (‘ order ’) w'ere 
originally undifferentiated, and interpreted as magical. 

^ The opposition is expressed sometimes as one between ‘ nature ’ and 
‘ law ’ (or ‘ norm ’ or ‘ convention ’), sometimes as one between ‘ nature ’ 
and the ‘ positing ’ or ‘ laying down ’ (viz., of normative laws), and sometimes 
as one between ‘ nature ’ and ‘ art or ‘ natural ’ and ‘ artificial ’. 

The antithesis between nature and convention is often said (on the 
authority of Diogenes Laertius ^ II, 16 and 4; Doxogr., 564b) to have been 
introduced by Archelaus, who is said to have been the teacher of Socrates. 
But I think that, in the Laws, 690b, Plato makes it clear enough that he con- 
siders ‘ the Theban poet Pindar ’ to be the originator of the antithesis (cp. notes 
10 and 28 to this chapter). Apart from Pindar’s fragments (quoted by Plato ; 
see also Herodotus, III, 38), and some remarks by Herodotus [loc, ciL), one of 
the earliest original sources preserved is the Sophist Antiphon’s fragments On 
Truth (see notes ii and 12 to this chapter). According to Plato’s Protagoras, 
the Sophist Hippias seems to have been a pioneer of similar views (see note 13 
to this chapter). But the most influential early treatment of the problem 
seems to have been that of Protagoras himself, although he may possibly 
have used a different terminology. (It may be mentioned that Democritus 
dealt with the antithesis which he applied also to such social ‘ institutions ’ 
as language ; and Plato did the same in the Cratylus, e.g. 3840.) 

^ A very similar point of view can be found in Russell’s ‘ A Free Man’s 
Worship ’ (in Mysticism and Logic) ; and in the last chapter of Sherrington’s 
Man on His Nature, 

234 CHAPTER 5 /note 5 

® (i) Positivists will reply, of course, that the reason why norms cannot be 
derived from factual propositions is that norms are meaningless ; but this 
shows only that (with Wittgenstein’s Tractatus) they define ^ meaning ’ 
arbitrarily in such a way that only factual propositions arc ‘ meaningful 
(See also my The Logic of Scientific Discovery, pp. 35 ff. and 51 f ) The followers 
of ‘ psychologism *, on the other hand, will try to explain imperatives as 
expressions of emotions, norms as habits, and standards as points of view. 
But although the habit of not stealing certainly is a fact, it is necessary, as 
explained m the text, to distinguish this fact from the corresponding norm. — 
On the question of the logic of norms, I fully agree with most of the views 
expressed by K. Menger in his book. Moral, Wille und Weltgestaltung, 1935. 
He is one of the first, I believe, to develop the foundations of a logic of norms. 
I may perhaps express here my opinion that the reluctance to admit that 
norms are something important and irreducible is one of the main sources 
of the intellectual and other weaknesses of the more ‘ progressive ’ circles in 
our present time. 

(2) Concerning my contention that it is impossible to derive a sentence 
stating a norm or decision from a sentence stating a fact, the following may 
be added. In analysing the relations between sentences and facts, we are 
moving in that field of logical inquiry which A. Tarski has called Semantics 
(cp. note 29 to chapter 3 and note 23 to chapter 8). One of the fundamental 
concepts of semantics is the concept of truth. As shown by Tarski, it is possible 
(within what Carnap calls a semantical system) to derive a descriptive state- 
ment like * Napoleon died on St. Helena ’ from the statement ‘ Mr. A said that 
Napoleon died on St. Helena in conjunction with the further statement that 
what Mr. A said was true. (And if we use the term ‘ fact ’ in such a wide 
sense that we not only speak about the fact described by a sentence but also 
about ih.t fact that this sentence is true, then we could even say that it is possible 
to derive ‘ Napoleon died on St. Helena ’ from the two ‘ facts ’ that Mr. A 
said It, and that he spoke the truth.) Now there is no reason why we should 
not proceed in an exactly analogous fashion in the realm of norms. We 
might then introduce, in correspondence to the concept of truth, the concept 
of the validity or rightness of a norm. This would mean that a certain norm N 
could be derived (in a kind of semantic of norms) from a sentence stating that 
M is valid or right ; or in other words, the norm or commandment ‘ Thou 
shalt not steal ’ would be considered as equivalent to the assertion ‘ The norm 
“ Thou shalt not steal ” is valid or right (And again, if we use the term 
* fact ’ in such a wide sense that we speak about the fact that a norm is valid 
or right, then we could even derive norms from facts. This, however, does 
not impair the correctness of our considerations in the text which are con- 
cerned solely with the impossibility of deriving norms from psychological or 
sociological or similar, i e. non-semantic, facts.) 

* (3) In my first discussion of these problems, I spoke of norms or decisions 
but never of proposals. The proposal to speak, instead, of ‘ proposals ’ is due 
to L. J, Russell ; see his paper ‘ Propositions and Proposals in the Library 
of the Tenth International Congress of Philosophy (Amsterdam, August 11-18, 1948), 
vol. I, Proceedings of the Congress. In this important paper, statements of fact 
or ‘ propositions ’ are distinguished from suggestions for the adoption of a line 
of conduct (of a certain policy, or of certain norms, or of certain aims or ends), 
and the latter are called ‘ proposals The great advantage of this termin- 
ology is that, as everybody knows, one can discuss a proposal, while it is not 
so clear whether, and in which sense, one can discuss a decision or a norm ; 
thus by talking of ‘ norms ’ or * decisions one is liable to support those who 
say that these things are beyond discussion (either above it, as some dogmatic 
theologians or metaphysicians may say, or — ^as nonsensical— below it, as some 
positivists may say). 

CHAPTER 5 /notes &-8 235 

Adopting Russell’s terminology, we could say that a proposition may be 
asserted or stated (or a hypothesis accepted) while a proposal is adopted , and we 
shall distinguish iht fact of its adoption from the proposal which has been adopted. 

Our dualistic thesis then becomes the thesis that proposals an not reducible 
to facts (or to statements of facts, or to propositions) even though they pertain to 

® Cp also the last note (71) to chapter 10. 

Although my own position is, I believe, clearly enough implied in the 
text, I may perhaps briefly formulate what seems to me the most important 
principles of humanitarian and equalitanan ethics. 

(1) Tolerance towards all who are not intolerant and who do not propagate 
intolerance. (For this exception, cp. what is said in notes 4 and 6 to chapter 
7.) This implies, especially, that the moral decisions of others should be 
treated with respect, as long as such decisions do not conflict with the principle 
of tolerance. 

(2) The recognition that all moral urgency has its basis in the urgency 
of suffering or pain. I suggest, for this reason, to replace the utilitarian 
formula * Aim at the greatest amount of happiness for the great' st number 
or briefly, ‘ Maximize happiness by the formula ‘ The least amount of avoid- 
able suffering for all or briefly, ‘ Minimize suffering Such a simple 
formula can, I believe, be made one of the fundamental principles (admittedly 
not the only one) of public policy. (The principle ‘ Maximize happiness 
in contrast, seems to be apt to produce a benevolent dictatorship ) We should 
realize that from the moral point of view suffering and happiness must not be 
treated as symmetrical ; that is to say, the promotion of happiness is in any 
case much less urgent than the rendering of help to those who suffer, and 
the attempt to prevent suffering. (The latter task has little to do with 
^ matters of taste the former much ) Cp. also note 2 to chapter 9. 

(3) The fight against tyranny ; or in other words, the attempt to safe- 
guard the other principles by the institutional means of a legislation rather 
than by the benevolence of persons in power. (Cp. section ii of chapter 7.) 

’ Cp. Burnet, Greek Philosophy, I, 1 1 7. — Protagoras’ doctrine referred to 
in this paragraph is to be found in Plato’s dialogue Protagoras, 322a, ff. ; cp. 
also the Theaetetus, esp. 172b (see also note 27 to this chapter). 

The difference between Platonism and Protagoreanism can perhaps be 
briefly expressed as follows : 

(Platonism.) There is an inherent ‘ natural * order of justice in the 
world, i.e. the original or first order in which nature was created. Thus the 
past is good, and any development leading to new norms is bad. 

(Protagoreanism.) Man is the moral being in this world. Nature is 
neither moral nor immoral. Thus it is possible for man also to improve 
things. — It is not unlikely that Protagoras was influenced by Xenophanes, 
one of the first to express the attitude of the open society, and to criticize 
Hesiod’s historical pessimism : ‘ In the beginning, the Gods did not show 
to man all he was wanting ; but in the course of time, he may search for the 
better, and find it.’ (Cp. Diels 18.) It seems that Plato’s nephew and 
successor Speusippus returned to this progressive view (cp. Aristotle’s Meta- 
physics, 1072830 and note 11 to chapter ii) and that the Academy adopted 
with him a more liberal attitude in the field of politics also. 

Concerning the relation of the doctrine of Protagoras to the tenets of religion, 
it may be remarked that he believed God to work through man. I do not 
see bow this position can' contradict that of Christianity. Compare with 
it for instance K. Barth’s statement {Credo, 1936, p. 188) : ‘ The Bible is a 
human document’ (i.e. man is God’s instrument). 

® Socrates’ advocacy of the autonomy of ethics (closely related to his 
insistence that problems of nature do not matter) is expressed especially in 

236 CHAPTER 5/NOTES 9-13 

his doctrine of the self-sufBciency or autarky of the * virtuous ’ individual 
That this theory contrasts strongly with Plato’s views of the individual will 
be seen later ; cp. especially notes 25 to this chapter and 36 to the next, and 
text. (Cp. also note 56 to chapter 10.) ^ ^ 

® We cannot, for instance, construct institutions which work independently 
of how they are being ‘ manned I With these problems, cp. chapter 7 
(text to notes 7-8, 22-23), and especially chapter 9. 

For Plato’s discussion of Pindar’s naturalism, see esp. Gorgias, 484b ; 
488b ; Laws, 690b (quoted below in this chapter ; cp. note 28) ; 7i4e/7i5a ; 
cp. also Sgoa/b. (See also Adam’s note to Rep., 359020.) 

Antiphon uses the term which, in connection with Parmenides and 
Plato, I have translated above by * delusive opinion ’ (cp. note 15 to chapter 
3); and he likewise opposes it to ' truth Gp. also Barker’s translation in 
Greek Political Theory, I — Plato and His Predecessors (1918), 83. 

See Antiphon, On Truth', cp. Barker, op. cit , 83-5. See also next note, (2). 

Hippias IS quoted in Plato’s Protagoras, 3370. For the next four quota- 
tions, cp. (i) Euripides Ion, 854 ff. ,* and (2) his Phoenissae, 538 ; cp. also 
Gomperz, Greek Thinkers (German ed., I, 325) ; and Barker, op. cit., 75 ; 
cp. also Plato’s violent attack upon Euripides in Republic, 568a-d. Further- 
more (3) Alcidamas in Schol. to Aristotle^ s Rhet., I, 13, I373bi8. (4) Lycophron 

in Aristotle’s Fragm., 91 (Rose) ; (cp. also the Pseudo-Plutarch, JDe Mobil, 
18.2). For the Athenian movement against slavery, cp. text to note 18 to 
chapter 4, and note 29 (with further references) to the same chapter ; also 
note 18 to chapter 10 and Addendum III (Reply to a Critic) below, especially 
pp. 330 f. 

(1) is It worth noting that most Platonists show little sympathy with 
this equalitarian movement. Barker, for instance, discusses it under the 
heading * General Iconoclasm ’ ; cp. op. cit., 75. (See also the second 
quotatiorf from Field’s Plato quoted in text to note 3, chapter 6.) This lack 
of sympathy is due, undoubtedly, to Plato’s influence. 

(2) For Plato’s and Aristotle’s anti-equalitariamsm mentioned in the 
text, next paragraph, cp. also especially note 49 (and text) to chapter 8, and 
notes 3-4 (and text) to chapter ii. 

This anti-equalitananism and its devastating effects has been clearly 
described by W. W. Tarn in his excellent paper ‘ Alexander the Great and 
the Unity of Mankind’ {Proc. of the British Acad., XIX, 1933, pp. 123 ff.). 
Tarn recognizes that in the fifth century, there may have been a movement 
towards ‘ something better than the hard-and-fast division of Greeks and 
barbarians ; but ’, ^ he says, ‘ this had no importance for history, because 
anything of the sort was strangled by the idealist philosophies. Plato and Aristotle 
left no doubt about their views. Plato said that all barbarians were enemies 
by nature ; it was proper to wage war upon them, even to the point of enslaving 
- . them. Aristotle said that all barbarians were slaves by nature . .’ 
(p. 124, italics mine). I fully agree with Tarn’s appraisal of the pernicious 
anti-humanitarian influence of the idealist philosophers, i.e. of Plato and 
Aristotle. I also agree with Tarn’s emphasis upon the immense significance 
of equalitarianism, of the idea of the unity of mankind (cp. op. cit., p, 147). 
The main point in which I cannot fully agree is Tarn’s estimate of the fifth- 
century equalitarian movement, and of the early cynics. He may or may not 
be right in holding that the historical influence of these movements was small 
in comparison with that of Alexander. But I believe that he would have 
rated these movements more highly if he had only followed up the parallelism 
between the cosmopolitan and the anti-slavery movement. The parallelism 
between the relations Greeks : barbarians and free men : slaves is clearly enough 
shown by Tarn in the passage here quoted ; and if we consider the unquestion- 
able strength of the movement against slavery (see esp. note 18 to chapter 4) 

CHAPTER 5/NOTES I4--18 237 

then the scattered remarks against the distinction between Greeks and 
barbarians gain much in significance. Cp. also Aristotle, Politics, III, 5, 7 
(1278a) ; IV (VI), 4, 16 (1319b) ; and III, 2, 2 (1275b). See also note 48 to 
chapter 8, and the reference to E. Badian at the end of that note. 

For the theme ‘ return to the beasts cp. chapter 10, note 71, and text. 

IS For Socrates’ doctrine of the soul, see text to note 44 to chapter 10. 

The term ‘ natural right ’ in an equalitarian sense came to Rome 
through the Stoics (there is the influence of Antisthenes to be considered ; 
cp. note 48 to chapter 8) and was popularized by Roman Law (cp. Institu- 
Hones, II, i, 2 ; I, 2, 2). It is used by Thomas Aquinas also {Summa, II, gr, 2). 
The confusing use of the term ‘ natural law ’ instead of ‘ natural right ’ by 
modern Thomists is to be regretted, as well as the small emphasis they put 
upon equalitarianism. 

The monistic tendency which first led to the attempt to interpret norms 
as natural has recently led to the opposite attempt, namely, to interpret 
natural laws as conventional. This (physical) type of conventionalism has been 
based, by Poincare, on the recognition of the conventional or verbal character 
of definitions. Poincare, and more recently Eddington, point out that we 
define natural entities by the laws they obey. From this the conclusion is 
drawn that these laws, i.e. the laws of nature, are definitions, i.e. verbal 
conventions. Cp. Eddington’s letter in Nature, 148 (1941), 141 : ‘ The 

elements ’ (of physical theory) ‘ . . can only be defined . . by the laws 
they obey ; so that we find ourselves chasing our own tails in a purely formal 
system.’ — ^An analysis and a criticism of this form of conventionalism can be 
found in my The Logic of Scientific Discovery, especially pp. 78 ff. 

(i) The hope of getting some argument or theory to share our 
responsibilities is, I believe, one of the basic motives of ‘ scientifio ’ ethics. 
‘ Scientific ’ ethics is in its absolute barrenness one of the most amazing of 
social phenomena. What does it aim at ? At telling us what we ought to 
do, i.e. at constructing a code of norms upon a scientific basis, so that we 
need only look up the index of the code if we are faced with a difficult moral 
decision ? This clearly would be absurd ; quite apart from the fact that 
if It could be achieved, it would destroy all personal responsibility and therefore 
all ethics. Or would it give scientific criteria of the truth and falsity of moral 
judgements, i e. of judgements involving such terms as ‘ good ’ or ‘ bad ’ ? 
But it is clear that mov?! judgements are absolutely irrelevant. Only a scandal- 
monger is interested in judging people or their actions ; ‘ judge not ’ appears 
to some of us one of the fundamental and much too little appreciated laws 
of humanitarian ethics.. (We may have to disarm and to imprison a criminal 
in order to prevent him from repeating his crimes, but too much of moral 
judgement and especially of moral indignation is always a sign of hypocrisy 
and Pharisaism.) Thus an ethics of moral judgements would be not only 
irrelevant but indeed an immoral affair. The all-importance of moral 
problems rests, of course, on the fact that we can act with intelligent foresight, 
and that we can ask ourselves what our aims ought to be, i.e. how we ought 
to act. 

Nearly ail moral philosophers who have dealt with the problem of how 
we ought to act (with the possible exception of Kant) have tried to answer it 
either by reference to ‘ human nature ’ (as did even Kant, when he referred 
to human reason) or to the nature of ‘ the good ’. The first of these ways 
leads nowhere, since ail actions possible to us are founded upon ‘ human 
nature ’, so that the problem of ethics could also be put by asking which 
elements in human nature I ought to approve and to develop, and which sides 
I ought to suppress or to control. But the second of these ways also leads no- 
where ; for given an analysis of ‘ the good ’ in form of a sentence like : ‘ The 
good is such and such ’for * such and such is good ’), we would always have 

238 CHAPTER 5/NOTE 18 

to ask : What about it ? Why should this concern me ? Only it the word 
* good ’ is used m an ethical sense, i,e. only if it is used to mean ‘ that which 
I ought to do could I derive from the information ‘ is good ’ the conclusion 
that I ought to do a;. In other words, if the word ‘ good ’ is to have any ethical 
significance at all, it must be defined as ‘ that which I (or we) ought to do 
(or to promote) But if it is so defined, then its whole meaning is exhausted 
by the defining phrase, and it can in every context be replaced by this phrase, 
i.e. the introduction of the term ‘ good ’ cannot materially contribute to our 
problem. (Cp. also note 49 (3) to chapter ii.) 

All the discussions about the definition of the good, or about the possibility 
of defining it, are therefore quite useless. They only show how far ‘ scientific * 
ethics is removed from the urgent problems of moral life. And they thus 
indicate that ‘ scientific ’ ethics is a form of escape, and escape from the 
realities of moral life, i.e. from our moral responsibilities. (In view of these 
considerations it is not surprising to find that the beginning of ‘ scientific ’ 
ethics, in the form of ethical naturalism, coincides in time with what may be 
called the discovery of personal responsibility. Cp what is said in chapter 10, 
text to notes 27-38 and 55-75 on the open society and the Great Generation.) 

(2) It may be fitting in this connection to refer to a particular form of 
the escape from responsibility discussed here, as exhibited especially by the 
juridical positivism of the Hegelian school, as well as by a closely allied 
spiritual naturalism. That the problem is still significant may be seen from 
the fact that an author of the excellence of Gatlin remains on this important 
point (as on a number of others) dependent upon Hegel ; and my analysis 
will take the form of a criticism of Gatlin’s arguments in favour of spiritual 
naturalism, and against the distinction betw^een laws of nature and normative 
laws (cp. G. E. G. Gatlin, A Study of the Principles of Politics^ 1930, pp. 96-99). 

Gatlin begins by making a clear distinction between the laws of nature 
and * laws . . which human legislators make ’ ; and he admits that, at first 
sight the phrase * natural law ’, if applied to norms, ‘ appears to be patently 
unscientific, since it seems to fail to make a distinction between that human 
law which requires enforcement and the physical laws which are incapable 
of breach But he tries to show that it only appears to be so, and that ‘ our 
criticism ’ of this way of using the term ‘ natural law ’ was ‘ too hasty ’. And 
he proceeds to a clear statement of spiritual naturalism, i.e. to a distinction 
between ‘ sound law ’ which is ‘ according to nature ’, and other law : ‘ Sound 
law, then, involves a formulation of human tendencies, or, in br lef, is a copy 
of the “ natural ” law to be “ found ” by political science. Sound law is 
in this sense emphatically found and not made. It is a copy of natuial social 
law ’ (i.e. of what I called ‘ sociological laws ’ ; cp. text to note 8 to this 
chapter). And he concludes by insisting that in so far as the legal system 
becomes more rational, its rules ‘ cease to assume the character of arbitrary 
commands and become mere deductions drawn from the primary social laws ’ 
(i.e. from what I should call ‘ sociological laws ’). 

(3) This is a very strong statement of spiritual naturalism. Its criticism 
is the more important as Gatlin combines his doctrine with a theory of ‘ social 
engineering ’ which may perhaps at first sight appear similar to the one 
advocated here (cp. text to note 9 to chapter 3 and text to notes 1-3 and 8-ii 
to chapter 9). Before discussing it, I wish to explain why I consider Gatlin’s 
view to be dependent on Hegel’s positivism. Such an explanation is necessary, 
because Gatlin uses his naturalism in order to distinguish between ‘ sound ’ 
and other law ; in other words, he uses it in order to distinguish between 
*just’ and ‘unjust’ law; and this distinction certainly does not look like 
positivism, i.e. the recognition of the existing law as the sole standard of justice. 
In spite of all that, I believe that Gatlin’s views are very cjose to positivism ; 
my reason being that he believes that only ‘ sound ’ law can be elTective, and 

CHAPTER 5 /note 1 8 239 

in so far ‘ existent ’ in precisely Hegel’s sense. For Gatlin says that when our 
legal code is not ‘ sound i.e. not in accordance with the laws of human 
nature, then ‘ our statute remains paper This statement is purest positivism ; 
for It allows us to deduce from the fact that a certain code is not only ‘ paper ’ 
but successfully enforced, that it is ‘ sound ’ ; or in other words, that all 
legislation which does not turn out to be merely paper is a copy of human 
nature and therefore just. 

(4) 1 now proceed to a brief criticism of the argument proffered by Gatlin 
against the distinction between {a) laws of nature which cannot be broken, 
and {b) normative laws, which are man-made, i.e. enforced by sanctions ; 
a distinction which he himself makes so very clearly at first. Gatlin’s argument 
is a twofold one. He shows (a^) that law^s of nature also are man-made, in 
a certain sense, and that they can, m a sense, be broken ; and (b^) that in a 
certain sense normative laws cannot be broken. I begin with (a^) ‘ The 
natural laws of the physicist writes Gatlin, ‘ are not brute facts, they are 
rationalizations of the physical world, whether superimposed by man or 
justified because the world is inherently rational and orderly’ And he 
proceeds to show that natural laws ‘ can be nullified ’ when ‘ fresh facts ’ 
compel us to recast the law. My reply to this argument is this. A statement 
intended as a formulation of a law of nature is ceitainly man-made. We 
make the hypothesis that there is a ceitain invariable regularity, i.e. we describe 
the supposed regularity with the help of a statement, the natural law. But, 
as scientists, we are prepared to learn from nature that we have been wrong ; 
we are prepared to recast the law if fresh facts which contradict our hypothesis 
show that our supposed law was no law^ since it has been broken. In other words, 
by accepting nature’s nullification, the scientist shows that he accepts a hypo- 
thesis only as long as it has not been falsified ; which is the same as to say 
that he regards a law of nature as a rule which cannot be broken, since he 
accepts the breaking of his rule as proof that his rule did not formulate a 
law of nature. Furthermore : although the hypothesis is man-made, we 
may be unable to prevent its falsification. This shows that, by creating 
the hypothesis, we have not created the regularity which it is intended to 
describe (although we did create a new set of problems, and may have 
suggested new observations and interpretations), (b^) ‘It is not true ’, 
says Gatlin, ‘ that the criminal “ breaks ” the law when he does the for- 
bidden act . . the statute does not say ; “ Thou canst not ” ; it says, “ Thou 
shalt not, or this punishment will be inflicted.” As command *, Gatlin 
continues, ‘ it may be broken, but as law, in a very real sense, it is only 
broken when the punishment is not inflicted. . . So far as the law is perfected 
and its sanctions executed, . . it approximates to physical law.* The reply 
to this is simple. In whichever sense we speak of ‘ breaking ’ the law, the 
juridical law can be broken ; no verbal adjustment can alter that. Let us 
accept Gatlin’s view that a criminal cannot ‘ break ’ the law, and that it is 
only ‘ broken * if the criminal does not receive the punishment prescribed by 
the law. But even from this point of view, the law can be broken ; for instance, 
by officers of the state who refuse to punish the criminal And even in a 
state where all sanctions are, inf act y executed, the officers couldy if they chose, 
prevent such execution, and so ‘ break ’ the law m Gatlin’s sense. (That they 
would thereby ‘ break ’ the law in the ordinary sense, also, i.e. that they 
would become criminals, and that they might ultimately perhaps be punished 
is quite another question.) In other words: A normative law is always 
enforced by men and by their sanctions, and it is therefore fundamentally 
different from a hypothesis. Legally, we can enforce the suppressiori of mur- 
der, or of acts of kindness ; of falsity, or of truth ; of justice, or of injustice. 
But we cannot force the sun to alter its course. No amount of argument can 
bridge this gap. 

240 CHAPTER 5/NOTES 19-26 

The ‘ nature of happiness and misery ’ is referred to in the Theaetetus, 
175c. For the close relationship between ‘ nature ’ and ‘ Form * or ‘ Idea 
cp. especially Republic, 597a-d, where Plato first discusses the Form or Idea 
of a bed, and then refers to it as ‘ the bed which exists by nature, and which 
was made by God ’ {597b). In the same place, he proffers the corresponding 
distinction between the ‘ artificial ’ (or the ‘ fabricated ’ thing, which is an 
‘imitation’) and ‘ truth’. Gp. also Adam’s note to Republic, 597b lo (with 
the quotation from Burnet given there), and the notes to 476613, 50169, 
525c 1 5 ; furthermore Theaeteius, 174b (and Gornford’s note i to p. 85 in his 
Platons Theory of Knowledge). See also Aristotle’s Metaphysics, ioi5ai4. 

For Plato’s attack upon art, see the last book of the Republic, and especially 
the passages Republic, 6ooa-6o5b, mentioned in note 39 to chapter 4. 

21 Cp. notes 1 1, 12 and 13 to this chapter, and text. My contention that 
Plato agrees at least partly with Antiphon’s naturalist theories (although he 
does not, of course, agree with Antiphon’s equalitarianism) will appear 
strange to many, especially to the readers of Barker, op. cit. And it may 
surprise them even more to hear the opinion that the main disagreement was 
not so much a theoretical one, but rather one of moral practice, and that 
Antiphon and not Plato was morally in the right, as far as the practical issue 
of equalitarianism is concerned. (For Plato’s agreement with Antiphon’s 
principle that nature is true 'and right, see also text to notes 23 and 28, and 
note 30 to this chapter.) 

These quotations are from Sophist, 266b and 2650. But the passage 
also contains (265c) a criticism (similar to Laws, quoted m text to notes 23 
and 30 in this chapter) of what may be described as a materialist interpreta- 
tion of naturalism such as was held, perhaps, by Antiphon ; I mean ‘ the 
belief . . that nature . . generates without intelligence ’. 

2® Gp. Laws, 892a and c. For the doctrine of the affinity of the soul to 
the Ideas, see also note 15 (8) to chapter 3. For the affinity of ‘ natures ’ 
and ‘ souls see Aristotle’s Metaphysics, 10 15a 14, with the passages of theLflt£;i 
quoted, and with SgGd/e : ‘ the soul dwells in all things that move . .’ 

Compare further especially the following passages in which ‘ natures ’ 
and ‘ souls ’ are used in a way that is obviously synonymous : Republic, 485a/b, 
485e/486a and d, 486b (‘ nature ’) ; 486b and d (‘ soul ’), 4900/49 la (both), 
49 1 b (both), and many other places (cp, also Adam’s note to 37oa7), The 
affinity is directly stated in 4906(10). For the affinity between ‘ nature ’ and 
‘ soul ’ and ‘ race ’, cp. 50 le where the phrase ‘ philosophic natures ’ or ‘ souls ’ 
found in analogous passages is replaced by ‘ race of philosophers ’. 

There is also an affinity between ‘ soul ’ or ‘ nature ’ and the social class 
or caste ; see for instance Republic, 435b. The connection between caste 
and race is fundamental, for from the beginning (415a), caste is identified 
with race. 

‘ Nature ’ is used in the sense of ‘ talent ’ or ® condition of the soul ’ in 
Laws, 648d, 650b, 6550, 710b, 766a, 875c. The priority and superiority of 
nature over art is stated in Laws, 88ga, ff. For ‘ natural ’ in the sense of 
‘right’, or ‘true’, see Laws, 686d and 8i8e, respectively. 

Cp. the passages quoted in note 32 (i), {a) and {c), to chapter 4. 

The Socratic doctrine of autarky is mentioned in Republic, 3878/0 
(cp. Apology, 41c, ff , and Adam’s note to Rep., 387d25). This is only one 
of the few scattered passages reminiscent of Socratic teaching ; but it is in 
direct contradiction to the main doctrine of the Republic, as it is expounded 
in the text (see also note 36 to chapter 6, and text) ; this may be seen 
by contrasting the quoted passage with 369c, ff, and very many similar 

Cp. for instance the passage quoted in the text to note 29 to chapter 4. 
For the ‘ rare and uncommon natures cp. Republic, 49ia/b, and many other 

CHAPTER 5 /NOTES 27-31 041 

passages, for instance Ttmaeiis, 510: ‘reason is shared by the gods with 
very few men’. For the ‘social habitat’, see 49 id (cp. also chapter 


While Plato (and Aristotle ; cp. especially note 4 to chapter ii, and text) 
insisted that manual work is degrading, Socrates seems to have adopted a 
very different attitude. (Cp. Xenophon, Memorabilia, II, 7 ; 7-10 ; 

Xenophon’s story is, to some extent, corroborated by Antisthenes’ and 
Diogenes’ attitude towards manual work ; cp. also note* 56 to chapter 10.) 

27 See especially Theaetetiis, 172b (cp. also Cornford’s comments on this 
passage in Plato's Theoiy of Knowledge), See also note 7 to this chapter. The 
elements of conventionalism in Plato’s teaching may perhaps explain why 
the Republic was said, by some who still possessed Protagoras’ writings, to 
resemble these. (Cp. Diogenes Laertius, III, 37 ) For Lycophron’s contract 
theory, see notes 43-54 to chapter 6 (especially note 4b), and text. 

28 Cp. Laws, Ggob/c ; see note 10 to this chapter. Plato mentions Pindar’s 
naturalism also in Gorgias, 484b, 488b ; Laws, y 14c, 890a. For the opposition 
between ‘ external compulsion ’ on the one hand, and (a) ‘ free action 
(b) ‘nature’, on the other, cp. also Republic, 603c, and Timaeus, 648. (Cp. 
also Rep,, 466c-d, quoted in note 30 to this chapter.) 

2^ Cp. Republic, gbgb-c. This is part of the contract theory. The next 
quotation, which is the first statement of the naturalist principle in the perfect 
state, is 37oa/b-c. (Naturalism is in the Republic first mentioned by Giaucon 
in 3580, ff ; but this is, of course, not Plato’s own doctrine of naturalism.) 

(1) For the further development of the naturalistic principle of the division 
of labour and the part played by this principle m Plato’s theory of justice, 
cp. especially text to notes 6, 23 and 40 to chapter 6. 

(2) For a modern radical version of the naturalistic [principle, see Marx’s 
formula of the communist society (adopted from Louis Blanc) ; ‘ From each 
according to his ability : to each according to his needs 1 ’ (Cp for instance 
A Handbook of Marxism, E. Burns, 1935, p. 752 ; and note 8 to chapter 13 ; 
see also note 3 to chapter 13, and note 48 to chapter 24, and text.) 

For the historical roots of this ‘ principle of communism ’, see Plato’s 
maxim ‘ Friends have in common all things they possess ’ (see note 36 to 
chapter 6, and text ; for Plato’s communism see also notes 34 to chapter 6 and 
30 to chapter 4, and text), and compare these passages with the Acts : ‘ And 
all that believed were together, and had all things in common ; . . and 
parted them to all men, as every man had need.’ (2, 44-45). — ‘ Neither was 
there any among them that lacked : for . . distribution was made unto 
every man according as he had need ’. (4, 34-35). 

See note 23, and text. The quotations in the present paragraph are 
all from the Laws : (i) 889, a-d (cp. the very similar passage in the Theaetetus, 
172b); (2)8960-0; (3) 8900/89 1 a. 

For the next paragraph in the text (i.e. for my contention that Plato’s 
naturalism is incapable of solving practical problems) the following may 
serve as an illustration. Many naturalists have contended that men and 
women are ‘ by nature ’ different, both physically and spiritually, and that 
they should therefore fulfil different functions in social life. Plato, however, 
uses the same naturalistic argument to prove the opposite ; for, he argues, 
are not dogs of both sexes useful for watching as well as hunting ? ‘ Do you 

agree he writes (Rep., 466c-d), ‘ that women . . must participate with men 
in guarding as well as in hunting, as it is with dogs ; . . and that in so doing, 
they will be acting in the most desirable manner, since this will be not contrary 
to nature, but in accordance with the natural relations of the sexes ? ’ (See 
also text to note 28 to this chapter ; for the dog as ideal guardian, cp. chapter 4, 
especially note 32 (2), and text.) 

For a -brief criticism of the biological theory of the state, see note 7 to 

chapter 5 /notes 32-39 

chapter 10, and text. * For the oriental origin of the theory, see R. Eisler^ 
jRevue de Synthese Historique^ vol. 41, p. 15 * 

32 For some applications of Plato’s political theory of the soul, and for the 
inferences drawn from it, see notes 58-9 to chapter 10, and text. For the 
fundamental methodological analogy between city and individual, see 
especially Republic, 3680, 445c, 577c. For Alcmaeon’s political theory of the 
human individual, or of human physiology, cp. note 13 to chapter 6. 

33 Cp. Republic, 423, b and d. 

3 ^ This quotation as well as the next is from G. Grote, Plato and the Other 
Companions of Socrates (1875), vol. Ill, 124. — ^The main passages of the Republic 
are 439c, f. (the story of Leontius) ; 571c, f. (the bestial part versus the reason- 
ing part) ; 588c (the Apocalyptic Monster ; cp. the ‘ Beast ’ which possesses 
a Platonic Number, in the Revelation 13, 17 and 18) ; 603d and 604b (man at 
war v/ith himself). See also Laws, SSga-b, and notes 58-9 to chapter 10. 

35 Cp. Republic, 5190, f. (cp. also note 10 to chapter 8) ; the next two 
quotations are both from the Laws, 903c. (I have reversed their order.) It 
may be mentioned that the * whole ’ referred to in these two passages (‘ pan ’ 
and ‘ holon ’) is not the state but the world ; yet there is no doubt that the 
underlying tendency of this cosmological holism is a political holism ; cp. 
Laws, go3d--e (where the physician and craftsman is associated with the states- 
man), and the fact that Plato often uses ‘ holon ’ (especially the plural of it) 
to mean ‘ state ’ as well as ‘ world Furthermore, the first of these two 
passages (in my order of quoting) is a shorter version of Republic, 420^-4210 ; 
the second of Republic, 520b, ff. (‘ We have created you for the sake of the 
state, as well as for your own sake,’) Further passages on holism or collectivism 
are : Republic, 424a, 449e, 462a, f., Laws, 715b, 739c, 875a, £, 903b, 923b, 
942a, f. (See also notes 31/32 to chapter 6.) For the remark in this para- 
graph that Plato spoke of the state as an organism, cp. Republic, 462c, and 
Laws, 9640, where the state is even compared with the human body. 

3 * Cp. Adam in his edition of the Republic, vol. II, 303 ; see also note 3 to 
chapter 4, and text. 

37 This point is emphasized by Adam, op, cit, note 546a, b7, and pp. 288 
and 307. The next quotation in this paragraph is Republic, 546a ; cp. Republic, 
485a /b, quoted in note 26 (i) to chapter 3 and in text to note 33 to chapter 8. 

33 This is the main point in which I must deviate from Adam’s interpreta- 
tion. I believe Plato to indicate that the philosopher king of Books VI-VII, 
whose main interest is in the things that are not generated and do not decay 
{Rep., 485b ; see the last note and the passages there referred to), obtains 
with his mathematical and dialectical training the knowledge of the Platonic 
Number and with it the means of arresting social degeneration and thereby 
the decay of the state. See especially the text to note 39. 

The quotations that follow in this paragraph are : ‘ keeping pure the 
race of the guardians ’ ; cp. Republic, 460c, and text to note 34 to chapter 4. 

‘ A city thus constituted, etc.’ : 546a. 

The reference to Plato’s distinction, in the field of mathematics, acoustics, 
and astronomy, between rational knowledge and delusive opinion based upon 
experience or perception is to Republic, 523a, ff., 525d, ff. (where ‘ calculation ’ is 
discussed ; see especially 526a) ; 5273, ff., 529b, £, 531a, ff. (down to 534a 
and 537d) ; see also 509d-5iie. 

33 * I have been blamed for ‘ adding ’ the words (which I never placed 
in quotation marks) ‘ lacking a purely rational method ’ ; but in view of 
Rep., 523a to 537d, it seems to me clear that Plato’s reference to ‘ perception ’ 
implies just this contrast.* The quotations in this paragraph are from Rep., 
546b, ff. Note that, throughout this passage, it is ‘ Th£ Muses ’ who speak 
through the mouth of ‘ Socrates 

In my interpretation of the Story of the Fall and the Number, I have 

CHAPTER 5 /note 39 243 

carefully avoided the difficult, undecided, and perhaps undecidable problem 
of the computation of the iSlumber itself. (It may be undecidable since 
Plato may not have revealed his secret in full.) I confine my interpretation 
entirely to the passages immediately before and after the one that describes 
the Number itself ; these passages are, I believe, clear enough. In spite 
of that, my interpretation deviates, as far as I know, from previous attempts. 

(i) The crucial statement on which I base my interpretation is (A) that 
the guardians work by ‘ calculation aided by perception \ Next to this, I am using 
the statements {B) that they will not ‘ accidentally hit upon (the correct way of) 
obtaining good offspring * ; (C) that they will * blunder^ and beget children 
in the wrong way ’ ; (D) that they are ‘ ignorant ’ of such matters (that is, 
such matters as the Number). 

Regarding (^), it should be clear to every careful reader of Plato that 
such a reference to perception is intended to express a criticism of the method 
in question. This view of the passage under consideration (546a, f.) is' 
supported by the fact that it comes so soon after the passages 523a-537d 
(see the end of the last note), in which the opposition between pure rational 
knowledge and opinion based on perception is one of the main themes, and 
in which, more especially, the term ‘ calculation ’ is used in a context emphasiz- 
ing the opposition between rational knowledge and experience, while the term 
‘ perception * (see also 5iic/d) is given a definite technical and deprecatory 
sense. (Gp. also, for instance, Plutarch’s wording in his discussion of this 
opposition : in his Life of Marcellus^ 306.) I am therefore of the opinion, and 
this opinion is enforced by the context, especially by (R), (C), (D), that Plato’s 
remark (il) implies (a) that ‘ calculation based upon perception ’ is a poor 
method, and (b) that there are better methods, namely the methods of mathe- 
matics and dialectics, which yield pure rational knowledge. The point I am 
trying to elaborate is, indeed, so plain, that I should not have troubled so 
much about it were it not for the fact that even Adam has missed it. In 
his note to 546a, by, he interprets ‘ calculation ’ as a reference to the rulers’ 
task of determining the number of marriages they should permit, and ‘ per- 
ception ’ as the means by which they * decide what couples should be joined, 
what children be reared, etc.’ That is to say, Adam takes Plato’s remark 
to be a simple description and not as a polemic against the weakness of the 
empirical method. Accordingly, he relates neither the statement (C) that 
the rulers will ‘ blunder ’ nor the remark (D) that they are ‘ ignorant ’ to 
the fact that they use empirical methods. (The remark (B) that they will 
not ‘ hit ’ upon the right method ‘ by accident ’ would simply be left untrans- 
lated, if we follow Adam’s suggestion.) 

In interpreting our passage we must keep it in mind that in Book VIII, 
immediately before the passage in question, Plato returns to the question of 
the first city of Books II to IV. (See Adam’s notes to 449a, ff., and 543a, ff.) 
But the guardians’ of this city are neither mathematicians nor dialecticians. 
Thus they have no idea of the purely rational methods emphasized so much 
in Book VII, 525-534. In this connection, the import of the remaiks on 
perception, i.e. on the poverty of empirical methods, and on the resulting 
ignorance of the guardians, is unmistakable. 

The statement (B) that the rulers will not ‘ hit accidentally upon ’ (the 
correct way of) ‘ obtaining good offspring, or none at all is perfectly clear 
in my interpretation. Since the rulers have merely empirical methods at 
their disposal, it would be only a lucky accident if they did hit upon a method 
whose determination needs rhathematical or other rational methods. Adam 
suggests (note to 546a, by) the translation : ‘ none the more will they by calcula- 
tion together with perception obtain good offspring ’ ; and only in brackets, 
he adds : ‘ lit. hit the obtaining of’- I think that his failure to make any 
sense of the ‘ hit ’ is a consequence of his failure to see the implications of (^ 4 ). 

244 CHAPTER 5 /NOTE 39 

The interpretation here suggested makes (C) and (D) perfectly under- 
standable ; and Plato’s remark that his Number is ‘ master over better or 
worse birth fits in perfectly. It may be remarked that Adam does not 
comment on (D), i.e. the ignorance, although such a comment would be 
most necessary in view of his theory (note to 546d22) that ‘ the number is 
not a nuptial . . number and that it has no technical eugenic meaning. 

That the meaning of the Number is indeed technical and eugenic is, I 
think, clear, if we consider that the passage containing the Number is enclosed 
in passages containing references to eugenic knowledge, or rather, lack of 
eugenic knowledge. Immediately before the Number, (A), ( 5 ), (C), occur, 
and immediately afterwards, (D), as well as the story of the bride and bride- 
groom and their degenerate offspring. Besides, (C) before the Number and 
(D) after the Number refer to each other ; for {€), the ‘ blunder is connected 
with a reference to ‘ begetting in the wrong way ’, and (D), the ignorance 
is connected with an exactly analogous reference, viz., ‘ uniting bride and 
bridegroom in the wrong manner (See also next note.) 

The last point in which I must defend my interpretation is my contention 
that those who know the Number thereby obtain the power to influence ‘ better 
or worse births ’. This does not of course follow from Plato’s statement that 
the Number itself has such power ; for if Adam’s interpretation is right, then 
the Number regulates the births because it determines an unalterable period 
after which degeneration is bound to set in. But I assert that Plato’s 
references to ‘ perception ’, to ‘ blunder ’ and to ‘ ignorance ’ as the immediate 
cause of the eugenic mistakes would be pointless if he did not mean that, 
had they possessed an adequate knowledge of the appropriate mathematical 
and purely rational methods, the guardians would not have blundered. But 
this makes the inference inevitable that the Number has a technical eugenic 
meaning, and that its knowledge is the key to the power of arresting degener- 
ation. (This inference also seems to me the only one compatible with all we 
know about this type of superstition ; all astrology, for instance, involves the - 
apparently somewhat contradictory conception that the knowledge of our 
fate may help us to influence this fate.) 

I think that the rejection of the explanation of the Number as a secret 
breeding taboo arises from a reluctance to credit Plato with such crude ideas, 
however clearly he may express them. In other words, they arise from the 
tendency to idealize Plato. 

(2) In this connection, I must refer to an article by A. E. Taylor, ‘ The 
Decline and Fall of The State in Republic^ VIII ’ {Mind, N.S. 48, 1939, pp. 
23 ff.). In this article, Taylor attacks Adam (in my opinion not justly), and 
argues against him : ‘ It is true, of course, that the decay of the ideal 
State is expressly said in 546b to begin when the ruling class “ beget children 
out of due season ” . . . But this need not mean, and in my opinion does 
not mean, that Plato is concerning himself here with problems of the hygiene 
of reproduction. The main thought is the simple one thar if, like everything 
of man’s making, the State carries the seeds of its own dissolution within it, 
this must, of course, mean that sooner or later the persons wielding supreme 
power will be inferior to those who preceded them ’ (pp. 25 ff.). Now this 
interpretation seems to me not only untenable, in view of Plato’s fairly definite 
statements, but also a typical example of the attempt to eliminate from Plato’s 
writing such embarrassing elements as racialism or superstition. Adam 
began by denying that the Number has technical eugenic importance, and by 
asserting that it is not a ‘ nuptial number *, but merely a cosmological 
period. Taylor now continues by denying that Plato is here at all interested 
in ‘ problems of the hygiene of the reproduction ’. But Plato’s passage is 
thronged with allusions to these problems, and Taylor himself admits two 
pages before (p. 23) that it is ‘ nowhere suggested * that the Number * is a 

CHAPTER 5 /NOTE 40 245 

determinant of anything but the “ better and worse births ” Besides, 
not only the passage in question but the whole of the Republic (and similarly 
the Statesman^ especially siob, 3ioe) is simply full of emphasis upon the 
‘problems of the hygiene of reproduction’. Taylor’s theory that Plato, 
when speaking of the ‘ human creature ’ (or, as Taylor puts it, of a ‘ thing 
of human generation ’), means the staie^ and that Plato wishes to allude to 
the fact that the state is the creation of a human lawgiver, is, I think, with- 
out support in Plato’s text. The whole passage begins with a reference to 
the things of the sensible world in flux, to the things that are generated and 
that decay (see notes 37 and 38 to this chapter), and more especially, to living 
things, plants as well as animals, and to their racial problems. Besides, a 
thing ‘ of man’s making ’ would, if emphasized by Plato in such a context, 
mean an ‘ artificial ’ thing which is inferior because it is ‘ twice removed ’ 
from reality. (Cp. text to notes 20-23 to this chapter, and the whole Tenth 
Book of the Republic down to the end of 608b.) Plato would never expect 
anybody to interpret the phrase ‘ a thing of man’s making ’ as meaning the 
perfect, the ‘ natural ’ state ; rather he would expect them to think of some- 
thing very inferior (like poetry ; cp. note 39 to chapter 4). The phrase 
which Taylor translates ‘ thing of human generation ’ is usually simply 
translated by ‘ human creature ’, and this removes all diiflculties. 

(3) Assuming that my interpretation of the passage in question is correct, 
a suggestion may be made with the intention of connecting Plato’s belief 
in the significance of racial degeneration with his repeated advice that the 
number of the members of the ruling class should be kept constant (advice 
that shows that the sociologist Plato understood the unsettling effect of popu- 
lation increase). Plato’s way of thinking, described at the end of the present 
chapter (cp. text to note 45 ; and note 37 to chapter 8), especially the way 
he opposes The One monarch, The Few timocrats, to Tjie Many who are 
nothing but a mob, may have suggested to him the belief that an increase w 
numbers is equivalent to a decline in quality. (Something on these lines is indeed 
suggested in the Laws, yiod.) If this hypothesis is correct, then he may 
easily have concluded that population increase is interdependent with, or perhaps 
even caused by, racial degeneration. Since population increase was in fact the 
main cause of the instability and dissolution of the early Greek tribal societies 
(cp. notes 6, 7, and 63 to chapter 10, and text), this hypothesis would explain 
why Plato believed that the ‘ real ’ cause was racial degeneration (in keeping 
with his general theories of ‘ nature ’, and of ‘ change ’). 

(i) Or ‘at the wrong time ’. Adam insists (note to 546d22) that we 
must not translate ‘ at the wrong time ’ but ‘ inopportunely I may remark 
that my interpretation is quite independent of this question ; it is fully com- 
patible with ‘ inopportunely ’ or ‘ wrongly ’ or ‘at the wrong time * or 
‘ out of due season ’. (The phrase in question means, originally, something 
like ‘ contrary to the proper measure ’ ; usually it means ‘ at the wrong 
time ’.) 

* (2) Concerning Plato’s remarks about ‘ mingling ’ and ‘ mixture it 
may be observed that Plato seems to have held a primitive but popular theory 
of heredity (apparently still held by race-horse breeders) according to which 
the offspiing is an even mixture or blend of the characters or ‘ natures ’ of 
his two parents, and that their characters, or natures, or ‘ virtues ’ (stamina, 
speed, etc., or, according to the Republic, the Statesman, and the Laws, gentle- 
ness, fierceness, boldness, self-restraint, etc.) are mixed in him in proportion 
to the number of ancestors (grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.) who 
possessed these characters. Accordingly, the art of breeding is one of a 
judicious and scientific — mathematical or harmonious — ^blending or mixing 
of natures. See especially the Statesman, where the royal craft of statesmanship 
or herdsmanship is likened to that of weawng, and where the kingly weaver 
O.S.I.E. — VOL. I I 


must blend boldness with self-restraint. (See also Republic^ 375c~e, and 
410C, ff. ; Laws, 731b ; and notes 34 f. to chapter 4 ; 13 and 39 f. to 
chapter 8 ; and text.) ♦ 

For Plato’s law of social revolutions, see especially note 26 to chapter 4, 
and text. 

*2 The term ‘ meta-biology ^ is used by G. B. Sha,w in this sense, i.e. as 
denoting a kind of religion. (Cp. the preface to Back to Methuselah ; see also 
note 66 to chapter 12.) 

^3 Cp. Adam’s note to Republic, 547a 3. 

For a criticism of what I call ‘ psychologism ’ in the method of sociology, 
cp. text to note 19 to chapter 13 and chapter 14, where Mill’s still popular 
methodological psychologism is discussed. 

It has often been said that Plato’s thought must not be squeezed into 
a ‘ system ’ ; accordingly, my attempts in this paragraph (and not only in 
this paragraph) to show the systematic unity of Plato’s thought, which is 
obviotisly based on the Pythagorean table of opposites, will probably arouse 
criticism. But I believe that such a systematization is a necessary test of any 
interpretation. Those who believe that they do not need an interpretation, 
and that they can ‘ know ’ a philosopher or his work, and take him just ‘ as 
he was or his work just ‘ as it was are mistaken. They cannot but interpret 
both the man and his work ; but since they are not aware of the fact that they 
interpret (that their view is coloured by tradition, temperament, etc.), their 
interpretation must necessarily be naive and uncritical. (Cp. also chapter 
10 (notes 1-5 and 56), and chapter 25.) A critical interpretation, however, 
must take the form of a rational reconstruction, and must be systematic ; it 
must try to reconstruct the philosopher’s thought as a consistent edifice. Cp. 
also what A. C. Ewing says of Kant {A Short Commentary on Kanfs Critique of 
Pure Reason, 1938, p. 4) : ‘ . we ought to start with the assumption that a 
great philosopher is not likely to be always contradicting himself, and con- 
sequently, wherever there are two interpretations, one of which will make 
Kant consistent and the other inconsistent, prefer the former to the latter, if 
reasonably possible.’ This surely applies also to Plato, and even to Interpreta- 
tion in general. 


1 Cp. note 3 to chapter 4 and text, especially the end of that paragraph 
Furthermore, note 2 (2) to that chapter. Concerning the formula Back to 
Mature^ I wish to draw attention to the fact that Rousseau was greatly influenced 
by Plato. Indeed, a glance at the Social Contract wjll reveal a wealth of 
analogies especially with those Platonic passages On naturalism which have 
been commented upon in the last chapter. Cp. especially note 14 to chapter 
9, There is also an interesting similarity hctwcch' Republic, 591a, ff. (and 
Gorgias, 4720, ff., where a similar idea occurs in an individualist context), and 
Rousseau’s (and Hegel’s) famous theory of punishment. (Barker, Greek 
Political Theory, I, 388 ff., rightly emphasizes Plato’s influence upon Rousseau. 
But he does not see the strong element of romanticism in Plato ; and it is 
not generally appreciated that the rural romanticism which influenced both 
France and Shakespeare’s England through the medium of Sanazzaro’s 
Arcadia, has its origin in Plato’s Donan shepherds ; cp. notes 1 1 (3), 26, and 
32 to chapter 4, and note 14 to chapter 9.) 

® Cp. R. H. S. Crossman, Plato To-Day (1937), 132 ; the next quotation is 
from p. III. ' This interesting book (like the works of Grote and T. Gomperz) 
has greatly encouraged me to develop my rather unorthodox views on Plato, 
and to follow them up to their rather unpleasant conclusions. For the 
quotations from C. E. M. Joad, #p. his Guide to the Philosophy of Morals and 

GHAPTOE 6/NOTES 3-8 247 

Politics (1938), 661, and 660. I may also refer here to the very interesting 
remarks on Plato’s views on justice by G, L. Stevenson, in his article ‘ Persuasive 
Definitions’ {Mindy N.S., voL 47, 1938, pp. 351 ff.). 

3 Cp. Grossman, op, city 132 £ The next two quotations are : Field, 
Plato, etc., 91 ; cp. similar remarks in Barker, Greek Political Theory, etc. (see 
note 13 to chapter 5). 

The idealization of Plato has played a considerable part in the debates 
on the genuineness of the various work$ transmitted under his name. Many 
of them have been rejected by some of the critics simply because they contained 
passages which did not fit in with their idealized view of Plato. A rather naive 
as well as typical expression of this attitude can be found in Davies* and 
Vaughan’s ‘ Introductory Notice * (cp, the Golden Treasury edition of the 
RepMic, p. vi) : ‘ Mr. Grote, in his zeal fo take Plato down from his super- 
human pedestal, may be somewhat too ready to attribute to him the composi- 
tions which have been judged unworthy of so divine a philosopher.* It does 
not seem to occur to the writers that their judgement of Plato should depend 
on what he wrote, and not vice versa ; and that, if these compositions are 
genuine and unworthy, Plato was not quite so divine a philosopher. (For 
Plato’s divinity, see also Simplicius in Anst de coelo, 32b44, 3i9ai5, etc.) 

* The formulation of {a) emulates one of Kant’s, who describes a just 
constitution as ‘ a constitution that achieves the greatest possible freedom of human 
individuals by framing the laws in such a way that the freedom of each can 
co-exist with that of all others *. {Critique of Pure Reason 373) ; see also his 
Theory of Right, where he says : ‘ Right (or justice) is the sum total of the 
conditions which are necessary for everybody’s free choice to co-exist with 
that of everybody else, in accordance with a general law of liberty.’ Kant 
believed that this was the aim pursued by Plato in the Republic ; from which 
we may see that Kant was one of the many philosophers who either were 
deceived by Plato or who idealized him by imputing to him their own humani- 
tarian ideas. I may remark, in this connection, that Kant’s ardent liberalism 
is very little appreciated in English and American writings on political 
philosophy (in spite of Hastie’s Kanfs Principles of Politics) . He is only too 
often claimed to be a forerunner of Hegel ; but in view of the fact that he 
recognized in the romanticism of both Herder and Fichte a doctrine diametric- 
ally opposed to his own, this claim is grossly unjust to Kant, and there can be 
no doubt that he would have strongly resented it. It is the tremendous 
influence of Hegelianism that led to a wide acceptance of this, I believe, 
completely untenable claim. 

® Cp. text to notes 32/33 to chapter 5. 

® Cp. text to notes 25-29, chapter 5, The quotations in the present 
paragraph are : (i) Republic, 433a ; (2) Republic, 434a /b ; (3) Republic, 44 id. 
With Plato’s statement, in the first quotation, ‘ we have repeated over and 
again ’, cp. also esp. Republic, 3970, where the theory of justice is carefully 
prepared, and, of course. Republic, 3698-0, quoted in text to note 29, chapter 5. 
See also notes 23 and 40 to the present chapter. 

’ As pointed out in chapter 4 (note 18 and text, and note 29), Plato does 
not say much about slaves in the Republic, although what he says is significant 
enough ; but he dispels all doubts about his attitude in the Laws (cp. especially 
G. R. Morrow’s article in Mind, referred to in note 29 to chapter 4). 

® The quotations are from Barker, Greek Political Theory, I, p. 180. Barker 
states (p. 176 f.) that ‘ Platonic Justice ’ is ‘ social justice and correctly 
emphasizes its holistic nature. He mentions (178 f.) the possible criticism 
that this formula does * not . . touch the essence of what men generally mean 
by justice i.e. ‘ a principle for dealing with the clash of wills i.e. justice as 
pertaining to individuals. But he thinks that *such an objection is beside 
the point and that Plato’s idea is ‘ not a matter of law * but * a conception 


of social morality ’ (179) ; and he goes on to assert that this treatment of justice 
corresponded, in a way, to the current Greek ideas of justice : * Nor was Plato, 
in conceiving justice in this sense, very far removed from the current ideas 
in Greece/ He does not even mention that there exists some evidence to the 
contrary, as here discussed in the next notes, and text. 

® Gp. GorgiaS) 4880, ff. ; the passage is more fully quoted and discussed 
in section viir below (see note 48 to this chapter, and text). For Aristotle’s 
theory of slavery, see note 3 to chapter 1 1 and text. The quotations from 
Aristotle in this paragraph are : (i) and (2) Nicom Ethics, V, 4, 7, and 8 ; 
(3) Politics, III, 12, I (1282b ; see also notes 20 and 30 to this chapter. The 
passage contains a reference to the Nicom. Eth.) ; (4) Nicom. Ethics, V, 4, 9 ; 
(5) Politics, IV (VI), 2, I (1317b). — In the Nicom, Ethics, V, 3, 7 (cp. also 
Pol, III, 9, I ; 1280a), Aristotle also mentions that the meaning of ‘justice ’ 
varies in democratic, oligarchic, and aristocratic states, according to their 
different ideas of ‘ merit’. ^ (What follows here was first added m the American 
edition of 1950.) 

For Plato’s views, in the Laws, on political justice and equality, see especially 
the passage on the two kinds of equality {Laws, 757b~d) quoted below under 
(1). For the fact, mentioned here in the text, that not only virtue and breed- 
ing but also wealth should count in the distribution of honours and of spoils 
(and even size and good looks), see Laws, 744c, quoted in note 20 (i) to the 
present chapter, where other relevant passages are also discussed, 

(1) In the Laws, y^yh-d, Plato discusses ‘ two kinds of equality \ ‘ The one 

of these . . is equality of measure. Weight, or number [i.e. numerical or 
arithmetical equality] ; but the truest and best equality . . distributes more 
to the greater and less to the smaller, giving each his due measure, in accord- 
ance with nature. . . By granting the greater honour to those who are superior 
in virtue, and the lesser honour to those who are inferior in virtue and breeding, 
it distributes to each what is proper, according to this principle of \rational] propoHions. 
And this is precisely what we shall call political justice And whoever 
may found a state must make this the sole aim of his legislation . . : this 
justice alone which, as stated, is natural equality, and which is distributed, 
as the situation requires, to unequals.’ This second of the two equalities 
which constitutes what Plato here calls ‘ political justice * (and what Aristotle 
calls * distributive justice ’), and which is described by Plato (and Aristotle) 
as ‘ proportionate equality ’ — the truest, best, and most natural equality — was 
later called ‘ geometrical ’ {Gorgias 508a ; see also 465b/c, and Plutarch, 
Moraha 719b, f), as opposed to the lower and democratic ‘‘ aiithmetical^ 
equality. On this identification, the remarks under (2) may throw some light. 

(2) According to tradition (see Comm, in Arist. Graeca, pars XV, Berlin, 

1897, P’ XVIII, Berlin, 1900, p. 118, 18), an inscription 

over the door of Plato’s academy said : ‘ Nobody untrained in geometry may 
enter my house ! ’ I suspect that the meaning of this is not meicly an 
emphasis upon the importance of mathematical studies, but that it means : 

* Arithmetic (i.e. more precisely, Pythagorean number theory) is not enough ; 
you must know geometry I ’ And I shall attempt to sketch the reasons %vhich 
make me believe that the latter phrase adequately sums up one of Plato’s 
most important contributions to science. See also Addendum, p. 319. 

As IS now generally believed, the earlier Pythagorean treatment of geometry 
adopted a method somewhat similar to the one nowadays called ‘ arith- 
metization Geometry was treated as part of the theory of integers (or 

* natural * numbers, i.e. of numbers composed of monads or ‘ indivisible 
units ’ ; cp. Republic, 5250) and of their ‘ logoi i.e- their ‘ rational ’ propor- 
tions. For example, the Pythagorean rectangular triangles were those with 
sides in such rational proportions. (Examples are 3:4:5; or 5:12 .*13) A 
general formula ascribed to Pythagoras is this : 2n + i : 2n(n 4- i) : 


2n(n + i) + I. But this formula, derived from the * gnomon \ is not general 
enough, as the example 8:15:17 shows. A general formula^ from which the 
Pythagorean can be obtained by putting m = n + i, is this : — n^ : 

2mn : m^ + n^ (where m > n). Since this formula is a close consequence 
of the so-called ‘ Theorem of Pythagoras ’ (if taken together with that kind 
of Algebra which seems to have been known to the early Pythagoreans), and 
since this formula was, apparently, not only unknown to Pythagoras but 
even to Plato (who proposed, according to Proclus, another non-general 
formula), it seems that the * Theorem of Pythagoras * was not known, in 
its general form, to either Pythagoras or even to Plato. (See for a less radical 
view on this matter T. Heath, A History of Greek Mathematics ^ 1921, vol. I, 
pp. 80-2. The formula described by me as ‘ general ’ is essentially that of 
Euclid ; it can be obtained from Heath’s unnecessarily complicated formula on 
p, 82 by first obtaining the three sides of the triangle and by multiplying them 
by 2/mn^ and then by substituting in the result m and n and p and q ) 

The discovery of the irrationality of the square root of two (alluded to by 
Plato in the Greater Hippias and in the Meno ; cp. note 10 to chapter 8 ; see 
also Aristotle, Anah Pnora, 4ia26 f.) destroyed the Pythagorean programme 
of ‘ arithmetizing ’ geometry, and with it, it appears, the vitality of the Pytha- 
gorean Order itself. The tradition that this discovery was at first kept secret 
is, it seems, supported by the fact that Plato still calls the irrational at first 
* arrhetos ’, i.e. the secret, the unmentionable mystery ; cp. the Greater Hippias, 
303b/c ; Republic, 546c. (A later term is ‘the non-commensurable ’ ; cp. 
Theaetetus, 147c, and Laws, 8qoc. The term ‘ alogos ’ seems to occur first in 
Democritus, who wrote two books On Illogical Lines and Atoms (or and Full 
Bodies) which are lost ; Plato knew the term, as proved by his somewhat 
disrespectful allusion to Democritus’ title m the Republic, 534d, but never 
used It himself as a synonym for ‘ arrhHos \ The first extant and indubitable 
use in this sense is in Aristotle’s Anal. Post, 76b9. See also T. Heath, op. cit., 
vol. I, pp. 84 f., 156 f. and my first Addendum on p. 319, below.) 

It appears that the breakdown of the Pythagorean programme,, i e. of the 
arithmetical method of geometry, led to the development of the axiomatic 
method of Euclid, that is to say, of a new method which was on the one side 
designed to rescue, from the breakdown, what could be rescued (including 
the method of rational proof), and on the other side to accept the irreducibility 
of geometry to arithmetic. Assuming all this, it would seem highly probable 
that Plato’s role in the transition from the older Pythagorean method to that 
of Euclid was an exceedingly important one — in fact, that Plato was one of 
the first to develop a specifically geometrical method aiming at rescuing what could 
be rescued from, and at cutting the losses of, the breakdown of Pythagoreanism. 
Much of this must be considered as a highly uncertain historical hypothesis, 
but some confirmation may be found in Aristotle, Anal. Post., yfibg (mentioned 
above), especially if this passage is compared with the Laws, 818c, 895e (even 
and odd), and 8i9e/82oa, 820c (incommensurable). The passage reads . 

‘ Arithmetic assumes the meaning of “ odd ” and “ even ”, geometry that of 
“irrational” . .’ (Or ‘incommensurable’; cp. Anal. Priora, 4.13.26 f., 
50a37. See also Metaphysics, 983a20, loGibi-g, where the problem of 
irrationality is treated as if it were ihe proprium of geometry, and 1089a, wheie, 
as in Anal. Post., yGbqo, there is an allusion to the ‘ square foot ’ method of 
the Theaetetus, I47d.) Plato’s great interest in the problem of irrationality 
IS shown especially m two of the passages mentioned above, the Theaetetus, 
I47c-i48a, and Laws, 8i9d-'822d, where Plato declares that he is ashamed 
of the Greeks for not being alive to the great problem of incommensurable 

Now I suggest that the ‘ Theory of the Primary Bodies ’ (in the Timaeus, 
53c to 62c, and perhaps even down to 64a ; see also Republic, 528b-d) was part 


of Plato’s answer to the challenge. It preserves, on the one hand, the atomistic 
character of Pythagoreanism — the indivisible units (* monads ’) which also 
play a role in the school of the Atomists — and it introduces, on the other 
hand, the irrationalities (of the square roots of two and three) whose admission 
into the world had become unavoidable. It does so by taking two of the 
offending rectangular triangles — the one which is half of a square and incor- 
porates the square root of two, and the one which is half of an equilateral 
triangle and incorporates the square root of three — as the units of which 
everything else is composed. Indeed, the doctrine that these two irrational 
triangles are the limits (fieras ; cp. Meno, 75d~76a) or Forms of all elementary 
physical bodies may be said to be one of the central physical doctrines of the 

All this would suggest that the warning against those untrained in geometry 
(an allusion to it may perhaps be found in the Timaeus, 54a) might have 
had the more pointed significance mentioned above, and that it may have 
been connected with the belief that geometry is something of higher import- 
ance than is arithmetic. (Cp- Timaeus, 31c.) And this, in turn, would 
explain why Plato’s ‘ proportionate equality ’, said by him to be something 
more aristocratic than the democratic arithmetical or numerical equality, 
was later identified with the ‘ geometrical equality ’, mentioned by Plato 
in the Gorgxas, 508a (cp. note 48 to this chapter), and why (for example by 
Plutarch, loc. cit) arithmetic and geometry were associated with democracy 
and Spartan aristocracy respectively — in spite of the fact, then apparently 
forgotten, that the Pythagoreans had been as aristocratically minded as Plato 
himself ; that their programme had stressed arithmetic ; and that ‘ geo- 
metrical ’, in their language, is the name of a certain kind of numerical 
(i.e. arithmetical) proportion. 

(3) In the Timaeus, Plato needs for the construction of the Primary Bodies 
an Elementary Square and an Elementary Equilateral Triangle. These two, 
in turn, are composed of two different kinds of sub-elementary triangles — the 
half-square which incorporates and the half-equilateral which incor- 
porates V3 respectively. The question why he chooses these two sub- 
elementary triangles, instead of the Square and the Equilateral itself, has 
been much discussed ; and similarly a second question — ^see below under 
(4) — ^why he constructs his Elementary Squares out of four sub-elementary 
half-squareS' instead of two, and the Elementary Equilateral out of six sub- 
elementary half-equilaterals instead of two. (See the first two of the three 
figures below.) 

Concerning the first of these two questions, it seems to have been generally 
overlooked that Plato, with his burning interest in the problem of irrationality, 
would not have introduced the two irrationalities V2 and VS (which he 
explicitly mentions in 54b) had he not been anxious to introduce precisely these 
irrationalities as irreducible elements into his world, (Cornford, Platons Cosmology, 
pp. 214 and 231 ff., gives a long discussion of both questions, but the common 
solution which he offers for both — ^his ‘ hypothesis ’ as he calls it on p. 234 
— appears to me quite unacceptable ; had Plato wanted to achieve some 
* grading ’ like the one discussed by Cornford — note that there is no hint 
in Plato that anything smaller than what Cornford calls ‘ Grade B ’ exists — it 
would have been sufiBcient to divide into two the sides of the Elementary Squares 
and Equilaterals of what Cornford calls ‘ Grade B building each of them 
up from four elementary figures which do not contain any irrationalities.) But 
if Plato was anxious to introduce these irrationalities into the world, as the 
sides of sub-elementary triangles of which everything else is composed, then 
he must have believed that he could, in this way, solve a problem ; and 
this problem, I suggest, was that of ‘ the nature of (the commensurable and) 
the uncommensurable ’ (Laws, 820c). This problem, clearly, was particularly 

CHAPTER 6/NOTE 9 25 1 

hard to solve on the basis of a cosmology which made use of anything like 
atomistic ideas, since irrationals are not multiples of any unit able to measure 
nationals ; but if the unit measures themselves contain sides in ‘ irrational 
ratios then the great paradox might be solved ; for then they can measure 
both, and the existence of irrationals was no longer incomprehensible or 
* irrational 

But Plato knew that there were more irrationalities than V2 and -v/S? 
for he mentions in the Theaetetus the discovery of an infinite sequence of 
irrational square roots (he also speaks, 148b, of * similar considerations con- 
cerning solids *, but this need not refer to cubic roots but could refer to the 
cubic diagonal, i.e. to Vs) 5 and he also mentions in the Greater Hippias 
(gogb-c ; cp. Heath, op. at , 304) the fact that by adding (or otherwise com- 
posing) irrationals, other irrational numbers may be obtained (but also 
rational numbers — ^probably an allusion to the fact that, for example, 2 minus 

is irrational ; for this number, plus ^/ 2 , gives of course a rational number). 
In view of these circumstances it appears that, if Plato wanted to solve the 
problem of irrationality by way of introducing his elementary triangles, he 
must have thought that all irrationals (or at least their multiples) can be 
composed by adding up (a) units ; (b) V2 ; (^r) VS I multiples of these. 
This, of course, would have been a mistake, but we have every reason to 
believe that no disproof existed at the time ; and the proposition that there 
are only two kinds of atomic irrationalities — the diagonals of the squares and 
of cubes — and that all other irrationalities are commensurable relative to 
(a) the unit; (b) ^2 ; and (r) ^3, has a certain amount of plausibility 

in it if we consider the relative character of irrationalities. (I mean the 
fact that we may say with equal justification that the diagonal of a square 
with unit side is irrational or that the side of a square with a unit diagonal 
is irrational. We should also remember that Euclid, in Book X, def. 2, still 
calls all incommensurable square roots * commensurable by their squares ’.) 
Thus Plato may well have believed in this proposition, even though he could 
not possibly have been in the possession of a valid proof of his conjecture, 
(A disproof was apparently first given by Euclid.) Now there is undoubtedly 
a reference to some unproved conjecture in the very passage in the Timaeus 
in which Plato refers to the reason for choosing his sub-elementary triangles, 
for he writes ( Timaeus, 53c/d) : * all triangles are derived from two, each 
having one right angle . . ; of these triangles, one fthe half-square] has on 
either side half of a right angle, . . and equal sides ; the other [the scalene] 

. . has unequal sides. These two we assume as the first principles . . accord- 
ing to an account which combines likelihood [or likely conjecture] with 
necessity [proof]. Principles which are still further removed than these are 
known to heaven, and to such men as heaven favours.* And later, after 
explaining that there is an endless number of scalene triangles, of which 
* the best * must be selected, and after explaining that he takes the half- 
equilateral as the best, Plato says {Timaetis, 54a /b ; Cornford had to emend 
the passage in order to fit it into his interpretation ; cp. his note 3 to p. 214) : 

‘ The reason is too long a story ; but if anybody puts this matter to the test, 
and proves that it has this property, then the prize is his, with all our good 
will.’ Plato does not say clearly what ‘ this property ’ means ; it must be a 
(provable or refutable) mathematical property which justifies that, having 
chosen the triangle incorporating \/2, the choice of that incorporating VS 
is ‘ the best ’ ; and I think that, in view of the foregoing considerations, 
the property which he had in mind was the conjectured relative rationality 
of the Oiher irrationals, i.e. relative to the unit, and the square roots of two 
and three. 

(4) An additional reason for our interpretation, although one for which 
I do not find any further evidence in Plato’s text, may perhaps emerge from 


the following consideration. It is a curious fact that + VS very nearly 
approximates n, (Gp. E. Borel, Space and Time, 1926, 1960, p. 216 ; my atten- 
tion was drawn to this fact, in a different context, by W. Marinelli.) The 
excess is less than 0-0047, i.e. less than i J pro mille of n, and a better approxi- 
mation to n was hardly known at the time. A kind of explanation of this 

The rectangle ABGD has an area exceeding that of the circle 
by less than i J pro mille 

curious fact is that the arithmetical mean of the areas of the circumscribed 
hexagon and the inscribed octagon is a good approximation of the area of 
the circle. Now it appears, on the one hand, that Bryson operated with the 
means of circumscribed and inscribed polygons (cp. Heath, op, cit., 224), 
and we know, on the other hand (from the Greater Hippias), that Plato was 
interested in the adding of irrationals, so that he must have added ^/ 2 -H VS* 
There are thus two ways by which Plato may have found out the approximate 


equation -r Vs ^ second of these ways seems almost in- 

escapable. It seems a plausible hypothesis that Plato knew of this equation, 
but was unable to prove whether or not it was a strict equality or only an 
approximation . 

But if this is so, then we can perhaps answer the * second question * men- 
tioned above under (3), i.e. the question why Plato composed his elementary 
square of four sub-elementary triangles (half-squares) instead of two', and 
his elementary equilateral of six sub-elementary triangles (half-equilaterals) 
instead of two. If we look at the first two of the figures above, then we 
see that this construction emphasizes the centre of the circumscribed and 
inscribed circles, and, in both cases, the radii of the circumscribed circle. 
(In the case of the equilateral, the radius of the inscribed circle appears also ; 
but it seems that Plato had that of the circumscribed circle in mind, since 
he mentions it, in his description of the method of composing the equilateral, 
as the ‘ diagonal ’ ; cp. the Timaeus, 54d/e ; cp. also 54b.) 

If we now draw these two circumscribed circles, or more precisely, if we 
inscribe the elementary square and equilateral into a circle with the radius r, 
then we find that the sum of the sides of these two figures approximates r:^: ; 
in other words, Plato’s construction suggests one of the simplest approximate 
solutions of the squaring of the circle, as our three figures show. In view of all 
this, it may easily be the case that Plato’s conjecture and his offer of ‘a prize 
with all our good will’, quoted above under (3), involved not only the general 
problem of the commensurability of the irrationalities, but also the special 
problem whether V2 -h VS squares the unit circle. 

I must again emphasize that no direct evidence is known to me to show 
that this was in Plato’s mind ; but if we consider the indirect evidence here 
marshalled, then the hypothesis does perhaps not seem too far-fetched. I do 
not think that it is more so than Cornford’s hypothesis ; and if true, it would 
give a better explanation of the relevant passages 

(5) If there is anything in our contention, developed in section (2) of 
this note, that Plato’s inscription meant ‘ Arithmetic is not enough ; you 
must know geometry I ’ and in our contention that this emphasis was con- 
nected with the discovery of the irrationality of the square roots of 2 and 3, 
then this might throw some light on the Theory of Ideas, and on Aristotle’s 
much debated reports. It would explain why, in view of this discovery, 
the Pythagorean view that things (forms, shapes) are numbers, and moral 
ideas ratios of numbers, had to disappear — perhaps to be replaced, as in 
the TimaeuSy by the doctrine that the elementary forms, or limits (‘ peras * ; 
cp, the passage from the Meno, 75d*-76a, referred to above), or shapes, or ideas 
of things, are triangles. But it would also explain why, one generation later, 
the Academy could return to the Pythagorean doctrine. Once the shock 
caused by the discovery of irrationality had worn off, mathematicians began 
to get used to the idea that the irrationals must be numbers, in spite of everything, 
since they stand in the elementary relations of greater or less to other (rational) 
numbers. This stage reached, the reasons against Pythagoreanism dis- 
appeared, although the theory that shapes are numbers or ratios of numbers 
meant, after the admission of irrationals, something different' from what it 
had meant before (a point which possibly was not fully appreciated by the 
adherents of the new theory). See also Addendum /, p. 319, below.* 

The well-known representation of Themis as blindfolded, i.e. disregard- 
ing the suppliant’s station, and as carrying scales, i.e. as distributing equality 
or as balancing the claims and interests of the contesting individuals, is a 
symbolic representation of the equalitarian idea of justice. This representa- 
tion cannot, however, be used here as an argument in favour of the contention 
that this idea was current in Plato’s time ; for, as Prof. E. H. Gombrich 
kindly informs me, it dates from the Renaissance, and is inspired by a passage 


in Plutarch’s De Iside et Osiride, but not by classical Greece. * On the other 
hand, the representation of Dike with scales is classical (for such a representa- 
tion, by Timochares, one generation after Plato, see R. Eisler, The Royal Art 
of Astrology, 1946, pp. 100, 266, and Plate 5), and goes back, probably, to 
Hesiod’s identification of the constellation of Virgo with Dike (in view of the 
neighbouring scales). And in view of the other evidence given here to show 
the association of Justice or Dike with distributive equality, the scales are 
likely to mean the same as in the case of Themis.* 

Republic, 440C“~d. The passage concludes with a characteristic sheep-dog 
metaphor ; ‘ Or else, until he has been called back, and calmed down, by 
the voice of his own reason, like a dog by his shepherd ? * Gp note 32 (2) to 
chapter 4. 

Plato, in fact, implies this when he twice presents Socrates as rather 
doubtful where he should now look out for justice. (Cp. 368b, ff., 432b, E) 

Adam obviously overlooks (under the influence of Plato) the equali- 
tarian theory in his note to Republic, 33t^> ff*? where he, probablv correctly, 
says that ^ the view that Justice consists in doing good to friends and harm to 
enemies, is a faithful reflection of prevalent Greek morality But be is wrong 
when he adds that this was ‘ an all but universal view ’ ; for he forgets his 
own evidence (note to 561628), which shows that equality before the laws 
(‘ isonomy ’) ‘was the proud claim of democracy See also notes 14 and 17 
to this chapter. 

One of the oldest (if not the oldest) reference to ‘ isonomy ’ is to be found 
in a fragment due to Alcmaeon the physician (early fifth century ; see Diels 
chapter 24, fr. 4) ; he speaks of isonomy as a condition of health, and opposes 
it to ‘ monarchy ’ — the dominance of one over many. Here we have a 
political theory of the body, or more precisely, of human physiology. Cp. 
also notes 32 to chapter 5 and 59 to chapter 10. 

A passing reference to equality (similar to that in the Gorgias, 483c /d ; 
see also this note, below, and note 47 to this chapter) is made in Glaucon’s 
speech in Republic, 359c ; but the issue is not taken up. (For this passage 
cp. note 50 to this chapter.) 

In Plato’s abusive attack upon democracy (see text to notes 14-- 18, 
chapter 4), three scornful jocular references to equal itarianism occur. The 
first is a remark to the effect that democracy ‘ distributes equality to equals 
and to unequals alike ’ (558c ; cp. Adam’s note to’558ci6 ; see also note 21 
to this chapter) ; this is intended as an ironical criticism. (Equality has 
been connected with democracy before, viz. in the description of the demo- 
cratic revolution ; cp. Rep , 557a, quoted in the text to note 13, chapter 4.) 
The second characterizes the ‘democratic man’ as gratifying all bis desiies 
‘ equally whether they may be good or bad ; he is theretoic called an 
‘ equalitarianist ’ (‘ isonomist ’), a punning allusion to the idea of ‘ equal 
laws for all * or ‘ equality before the law ’ (‘ isonomy * ; cp. notes 13 and 17 
to this chapter). This pun occurs in Republic, 5610. ‘ The way for it is well 
paved, since the word ‘ equal ’ has already been used three times {Rep., 561b 
and c) to characterize an attitude of the man to whom all desires and whims 
are ‘ equal The third of these cheap cracks is an appeal to the reader s 
imagination, typical even nowadays of this kind of propaganda : ‘ I nearly 
forgot to mention the great role played by these famous “ equal laws ”, 
and by this famous “ liberty ”, in the interrelations between men and 
women . .’ {Rep., 563b). 

Besides the evidence of the importance of equalitarianism mentioned 
here (and in the text to notes 9-- 10 to this chapter), we must consider 
especially Plato’s own testimony in (i) the Gorgias, where he writes (4886 /489a ; 
see also notes 47, 48, and 50 to the present chapter) ; * Does not the multitude 
(i.e. here : the majority of the people) believe . . that* justice is equality?’ 

CHAPTER 6/NOTES 1 5— IQ 255 

(2) The Menexenus (238e-239a ; see note 19 to this chapter, and text). The 
passages in the Laws on equality are later than the Republic, and cannot be 
used as testimony for Plato’s awareness of the issue when writing the Republic ; 
but see text to notes 9, 20 and 21 to this chapter. 

Plato himself says, in connection with the third remark (563b ; cp. the 
last note) : ‘ Shall we utter whatever rises to our lips ? ’ ; by which he appar- 
ently wishes to indicate that he does not see any reason to suppress the 

I believe that Thucydides’ (II, 37 ff.) version of Pericles’ oration can 
be taken as practically authentic. In all likelihood, he was present when 
Pericles spoke ; and in any case he would have reconstructed it as faithfully 
as possible. There is much reason to believe that in those times it was not 
extraordinary for a man to learn another’s oration even by heart (cp. Plato’s 
Phaedrus), and a faithful reconstruction of a speech of this kind is indeed not 
as difficult as one might think. Plato knew the oration, taking either 
Thucydides’ version or another source, which must have been extremely 
similar to it, as authentic. Cp. also notes 31 and 34/35 to chapter 10. (It 
may be mentioned here that early in his career, Pericles had made rather 
dubious concessions to the popular tribal instincts and to the equally popular 
group egoism of the people ; I have m mind the legislation concerning 
citizenship in 451 b.g. But later he revised his attitude towards these matters, 
probably under the influence of such men as Protagoras.) 

Cp. Herodotus^ HI, 80, and especially the eulogy on ‘ isonomy ’, i e. 
equality before the law (III, 80, 6) ; see also notes 13 and 14 to this chapter. 
The passage from Herodotus, which influenced Plato in other ways also 
(cp. note 24 to chapter 4), is one which Plato ridicules in the Republic yu&t as 
he ridicules Pericles’ oration ; cp. note 14 to chapter 4, and 34 to chapter 10. 

Even the naturalist Aristotle does not always refer to this naturalistic 
version of equalitarianism ; for instance, his formulation of the principles of 
democracy in Politics^ 1317b (cp. note 9 to this chapter, and text), is quite 
independent of it. But it is perhaps even more interesting that in the Gorgias^ 
in which the opposition of nature and convention plays such an important 
r 61 e, Plato presents equalitarianism without burdening it with the dubious 
theory of the natural equality of all men (see 488e/489a, quoted in note 14 to 
this chapter, and 483d, 484a, and 508a). 

Cp. Menexenus, 238e/239a. The passage immediately follows a clear 
allusion to Pericles’ oration (viz., to the second sentence quoted in the text to 
note 17, in this chapter). — It seems not improbable that the reiteration of the 
term ‘ equal birth ’ in that passage is meant as a scornful allusion to the ‘ low * 
birth of Pericles’ and Aspasia’s sons, who were recognized as Athenian citizens 
only by special legislation in 429 b.c. (Cp. E. Meyer, Gesch, d. Aliertums, 
vol. IV, p. 14, note to No. 392, and p. 323, No. 558.) 

It has been held (even by Grote ; cp. his Plato, III, p. ii) that Plato in 
the Menexenus, ‘ in his own rhetorical discourse, - , drops the ironical vein ’, 
i.e. that the middle part of the Menexenus, from which the quotation in the 
text is taken, is not meant ironically. But m view of the quoted passage 
on equality, and in view of Plato’s open scorn in the Republic when he deals 
with this point (cp. note 14 to this chapter), this opinion seems to me untenable. 
And it appears to me equally impossible to doubt the ironical character of 
the passage immediately preceding the one quoted in the text where Plato 
says of Athens (cp. 238c/d) : ‘ In this time as well as at present , . our govern* 
ment was always an aristocracy . . ; though it is sometimes called a democracy, 
it is really an aristocracy, that is to say, a rule of the best, with the approval 
of the many . In view of Plato’s hatred of democracy, this description 
needs no further comment. ♦ Another undoubtedly ironical passage is 245 c-d 
(cp. note 48 to chapter 8) where ‘ Socrates * praises Athens for its consistent 

256 CHAPTER 6 /note 20 

hatred of foreigners and barbarians. Since elsewhere (in the Republic^ 5^2e, f , 
quoted in note 48 to chapter 8) m an attack on democracy — and this means 
Athenian democracy — Plato scorns Athens because of its liberal treatment 
of foreigners, his praise in the Menexenus cannot be anything but irony ; again 
the liberality of Athens is ridiculed by a pro-Spartan partisan, (Strangers 
were forbidden to reside in Sparta, 'by a law of Lycurgus ; cp. Aristophanes’ 
Bvrds^ 1012 ) It is interesting, in this connection, that in the Menexenus 
(236a ; cp. note 15 (i) to chapter 10) where ‘ Socrates ’ is an orator who 
attacks Athens, Plato says of ‘ Socrates ’ that he \^'as a pupi^ of the oligarchic 
party leader Antiphon the Orator (of Rhamnus ; not to be confused with 
Antiphon the Sophist, who was an Athenian) ; especially in view of the fact 
that ‘ Socrates ’ produces a parody of a speech recorded by Thucydides, who 
in fact seems to have been a pupil of Antiphon whom he greatly admired.* 
For the genuineness of the Menexenus^ see also note 35 to chapter 10. 

Laws^ 757a ; cp. the whole passage, 757a~e, of which the main parts 
are quoted above, in note 9 (i) to this chapter. 

(1) For what I call the standard objection against equalitariamsm, cp. 
also Laws^ 744b, ff. ‘ It would be excellent if everybody could . . have all 
things equal ; but since this is impossible . .’, etc. The passage is especially 
interesting m view of the fact that Plato is often described as an enemy of 
plutocracy by many writers who judge him only by the Republic, But in this 
important passage of the Law^ (i.e. 744b, ff.) Plato demands that ‘ political 
offices, and contributions, as well as distributions, should be proportional 
to the value of a citizen’s wealth. And they should depend not only on his 
virtue or that of his ancestors or on the size of his body and his good looks, 
but also upon his wealth or his poverty. In this way, a man will receive 
honours and offices as equitably as possible, i.e. m proportion to his wealth, 
although according to a principle of unequal distribution.’ * The doctrine 
of the unequal distribution of honour and, we may assume, of spoils, in pro- 
portion to wealth and bodily size, is probably a residue from the heroic age 
of conquest. The wealthy who are heavily and expensively armed, and 
those who are strong, contribute more to the victory than the others. (The 
principle was accepted in Homeric times, and it can be found, as R. Eisler 
assures me, in practically all known cases of conquering war hordes.) * The 
basic idea of this attitude, viz., that it is unjust to treat unequals equally, can 
be found, in a passing remark, as early as the ProtagoiaSy 337a (see also Gorgias, 
508a, f., mentioned in notes 9 and 48 to this chapter) ; but Plato did not 
make much use of the idea before writing the Laws. 

(2) For Aristotle’s elaboration of these ideas, cp. esp. his Politics^ III, 
9, I, 1280a (see also I282b-i284b and I30ib29), where he writes : * All men 
cling to justice of some kind, but their conceptions are imperfect, and do not 
embrace the whole Idea. For example, justice is thought (by democrats) to 
be equality ; and so it is, although it is not equality for all, but only for equals. 
And justice is thought (by oligarchs) to be inequality ; and so it is, although 
it is not inequality for all, but only for unequals ’ Cp. also Michom. Eth.^ 
Ii3ib27, ii58b30 ff. 

(3) Against all this anti-equalitarianism, I hold,^ with Kant, tliat it must 
be the principle of all morality that no man should consider himself more 
valuable than any other person. And I assert that this principle is the only 
one acceptable, considering the notorious impossibility of judging oneself 
impartially. I am therefore at a loss to understand the following remark 
of an excellent write®- like Gatlin {Principles^ SH) • ‘There is something 
pro^undly immoral in the morality of Kant which endeavours to roll all 
personalities level . . and which ignores the Aristotelian precept to render 
equals to equals and unequals to unequals. One man has not socially the 
same rights as another . . The present writer would by no means be prepared 

CHAPTER 6 /NOTES 21-25 257 

to deny that . . there is something in “ blood Now I ask : If there were 
something in ‘ blood or in inequality of talents, etc. ; and even if it were 
worth while to waste one’s time in assessing these differences ; and even 
if one could assess them ; why, then, should they be made the ground of 
greater rights and not only of heavier duties? (Gp. text to notes 31/32 to 
chapter 4.) I fail to see the profound immorality of Kant’s equalitarianism. 
And I fail to see on what Catlm bases his moral judgement, since he considers 
morals to be a matter of taste. Why should Kant’s ‘ taste ’ be profoundly 
immoral ? (It is also the Christian ‘ taste ’.) The only reply to this question 
that I can think of is that Gatlin judges from his positivistic point of view 
(cp. note 18 (2) to chapter 5), and that he thinks the Christian and Kantian 
demand immoral because it contradicts the positively enforced moral valuations 
of our contemporary society. 

(4) One of the best answers ever given to all these anti-equalitarianists is 
due to Rousseau. I say this in spite of my opinion that his romanticism 
(cp. note I to this chapter) was one of the most pernicious influences m the 
history of social philosophy. But he was also one of the few really brilliant 
writers in this field, I quote one of his excellent remarks from the Origin of 
Inequality (see, for instance, the Everyman edition of the Social Contract^ p. 1 74 ; 
the italics are mine) ; and I wish to draw the reader’s attention to the dignified 
formulation of the last sentence of this passage. * I conceive that there are 
two kinds of inequality among the human species ; one, which I call natural 
or physical because it is established by nature, and consists in a difference of 
age, health, bodily strength, and the qualities of the mind or of the soul ; 
and another, which may be called moral or political inequality, because it 
depends on a kind of convention, and is established, or at least authorized, 
by the consent of men. This latter consists of the different privileges, which 
some men enjoy . . ; such as that of being more rich, more honoured, or 
more powerful. . . It is useless to ask what is the source of natural inequality, 
because that question is answered by the simple definition of the word. Again, 
it IS still more useless to inquire whether there is any essential connection between the two 
inequalities ; for this would be only asking, m other words, whether those 
who command are necessarily better than those who obey, and whether 
strength of body or of mind, or wisdom, or virtue, are always found . , in 
proportion to the power or wealth of a man ; a question fit perhaps to be discussed 
by slaves in the hearing of their masters, but highly unbecoming to reasonable and free 
men m search of the truth.^ 

Republic, 558c ; cp. note 14 to this chapter (the first passage in the attack 
on democracy). 

Republic, 433b. Adam, who also recognizes that the passage is intended 
as an argument, tries to reconstruct the argument (note to 433bii) ; but he 
confesses that ‘ Plato seldom leaves so much to be mentally supplied in his 
reasoning ’. 

Republic, 433e/434a. — For a continuation of the passage, cp. text to 
note 40 to this chapter ; for the preparation for it in earlier parts of the 
Republic, see note 6 to this chapter. — ^Adam comments on the passage which 
I call the ‘ second argument ’ as follows (note to 433035) ; ‘ Plato is looking 
for a point of contact between his own view of Justice and the popular judicial 
meaning of the word , (See the passage quoted in the next paragraph in 
the text.) Adam tries to defend Plato’s argument against a critic (Kfobn) 
who saw, though perhaps not very clearly, that there was something wrong 
with it. 

The quotations in this paragraph are from Republic, 43od, ff. 

This device seems to have been successful even with a keen critic such as 
Gomperz, who, m his brief criticism {Greek Thinkers, Book V, II, 10 ; Germ, ed., 
vol. II, pp. 378/379), fails to mention the weaknesses of the argument ; and 

258 CHAPTER 6/NOTES 26-32 

he even says, commenting upon the first two books (V, II, 5 ; p. 368) : * An 
exposition follows which might be described as a miracle of clarity, precision, 
and genuine scientific character . adding that Plato’s interlocutors Glaucon 
and Adeimantus, ‘ driven by their burning enthusiasm , . dismiss and 
forestall ail superficial solutions 

For my remarks on temperance, in the next paragraph of the text, see 
the following passage from Davies’ and Vaughan’s ‘ Analysis * (cp. the Golden 
Treasury edition of the Republic, p, xviii ; italics mine) : ‘ The essence of 

temperance is restraint. The essence of political temperance lies in recognizing 
the right of the governing body to the allegiance and obedience of the governed* This 
may show that my interpretation of Plato’s idea of temperance is shared 
(though expressed in a different terminology) by followers of Plato. I may 
add that ‘ temperance i.e. being satisfied with one’s place, is a virtue in 
which all three classes share, although it is the only virtue in which the workers 
may participate. Thus the virtue attainable by the workers or money-earners 
is temperance ; the virtues attainable by the auxiliaries are temperance and 
courage ; by the guardians, temperance, courage, and wisdom. 

The ‘ lengthy preface also quoted in the next paragraph, is from Republic, 
432b, ff. 

On the term ‘ collectivism ’, a terminological comment may be made 
here. What H. G. Wells calls * collectivism ’ has nothing to do with what 
I call by that name. Wells is an individualist (in my sense of the word), 
as is shown especially by his Rights of Man and his Common Sense of War and 
Peace, which contain very acceptable formulations of the demands of an 
equalitarian individualism. But he also believes, rightly, in the rational 
planning of political institutions, with the aim of furthering the freedom and 
the welfare of individual human beings. This he calls ‘ collectivism ’ ; to 
describe what I believe to be the same thing as his ‘ collectivism I should 
use an expression like : ‘ rational institutional planning for freedom This 
expression may be long and clumsy, but it avoids the danger that ‘ collectivism ’ 
may be interpreted in the anti-individualistic sense in which it is often used, 
not only in the present book. 

Laws, 903c ; cp. text to note 35, chapter 5. The * preamble ’ men- 
tioned in the text (‘ But he needs , , some words of counsel to act as a charm 
upon him ’, etc.) is Laws, 903b, 

There are innumerable places in the Republic and in the Laws where 
Plato gives a warning against unbridled group egoism ; cp., for instance, 
Republic, 5190, and the passages referred to in note 41 to this chapter. 

Regarding the identity often alleged to exist between collectivism and 
altruism, I may refer, in this connection, to the very pertinent question of 
Sherrington, who asks in Man on His Nature (p. 388) : ‘ Are the shoal and 
the herd altruism ? ’ 

For Dickens* mistaken contempt of Parliament, cp. also note 23 to 
chapter 7. 

Aristotle’s Politics, III, 12, i (1282b) ; cp. text to notes 9 and 20, to 
this chapter. (Cp. also Aristotle’s remark in Pol., Ill, 9, 3, 1280a, to the effect 
that justice pertains, to persons as well as to things.) With the quotation 
from Pericles later in this paragraph, cp. text to note 16 to this chapter, and 
to note 31 to chapter 10. 

This remark is from a passage (Rep., 5190, f.) quoted in the text to note 
35 to chapter 5. 

The important passages from the Laws quoted (i) in the present and 
(2) in the next paragraph are ; 

(i) Laws, 739c, ff. Plato refers here to the Republic, and apparently 
especially to Republic, 462a ff., 424a, and 4490. (A list of passages on 
collectivism and holism can be found in note 35 to chapter 5. On his com- 

CHAPTER 6/NOTES 33-4I 259 

munism, see note 29 (2) to chapter 5 and other places there mentioned.) 
The passage here quoted begins, characteristically, with a quotation of the 
Pythagorean maxim ‘ Friends have in common ail things they possess *. 
Cp. note 36 and text ; also the ‘ common meals * mentioned in note 34* 

(2) LawSi 942a, f. ; see next note. Both these passages are referred to as 
anti-individualistic by Gomperz (op. cit.^ voL II, 406). See also Laws, 8o7d/e. 

Cp. note 42, chapter 4, and text. — ^The quotation which follows in the 
present paragraph is Laws, 942a, f. (see the preceding note). 

We must not forget that military education in the Laws (as in the Republic) 
is obligatory for all those allowed to carry arms, i.e. for all citizens — ^for 
ail those who have anything like civil rights (cp. Laws, 753b). All others 
are ‘ banausic if not slaves (cp. Laws, 7410 and 743d, and note 4 to chapter 

It is interesting that Barker, who hates militarism, believes that Plato 
held similar views (Greek Political Theory, 298-30 1). It is true that Plato 
did not eulogize war, and that he even spoke against war. But many militarists 
have talked peace and practised war ; and Plato’s state is ruled by the military 
caste, i.e. by the wise ex-soldiers. This remark is as true for the Laws (cp. 
753b) as it is for the Republic, 

3 ^ Strictest legislation about meals — especially ‘ common meals ’ — and also 
about drinking habits plays a considerable part in Plato ; cp., for instance, 
Republic, 4160, 458c, 547d/e ; Laws, 6250, 633a (where the obligatory 
common meals are said to be instituted with a view to war), 762b, 780-783, 
806c, f, 839c, 842b. Plato always emphasizes the importance of common 
meals, in accordance with Cretan and Spartan customs. Interesting also 
is the preoccupation of Plato’s uncle Critias with these matters. (Cp. Diels 
Critias, fr. 33.) 

With the allusion to the anarchy of the ‘ wild beasts at the end of the 
present quotation, cp. also Republic, 563c. ' 

Cp. E. B. England’s edition of the Laws, vol. I, p. 514, note to 739b8 ff. 
The quotations from Barker are from op. cit. ; pp. 149 and 148. Countless 
similar passages can be found in the writings of most Platonists. See however 
Sherrington’s remark (cp. note 28 to this chapter) that it is hardly correct 
to say that a shoal or a herd is inspired by altruism. Herd instinct and tribal 
egoism, and the appeal to these instincts, should not be mixed up with 

Cp. Republic, 424a, 449c ; Phaedrus, 279c ; Laws, 739c ; see note 32 (i). 
(Cp. also Lysis, 207c, and Euripides, Orest., y 2 ^.) For the possible connection 
of this principle with early Gliristian and Marxian commumsm, see note 29 (2) 
to chapter ‘5. 

Regarding the individualistic theory of justice and injustice of the Gorgias, 
cp. for instance the examples given in the Gorgias, 468b, ff., 5088 /e. These 
passages probably still show Socratic influence (cp, note 56 to chapter 10). 
Socrates’ individualism is most clearly expressed in his famous doctrine of the 
self-sufficiency of the good man ; a doctrine which is mentioned by Plato in 
the Republic (387d/e) in spite of the fact that it flatly contradicts one of the 
main theses of the Republic, viz., that the state alone can be self-sufficient, 
(Cp. chapter 5, note 25, and the text to that and the following notes.) 

Republic, gSBb/c. 

Cp. especially Republic, 344a, ff. 

Cp- Laws, 923b. 

Republic, 434a-c. (Cp. also text to note 6 and note 23 to this chapter, 
and notes 27 (3) and 31 to chapter 4.) 

Republic, 466b /c. Cp. also the Laws, 7i5b/c, and many other passages 
against the anti-holistic misuse of class prerogatives. See also note 28 to diis 
chapter, and note 25 (4) to chapter 7. 

26 o chapter 6 /notes 42-44 

The problem here alluded to is that of the ^paradox of freedom ’ ; cp. 
note 4 to chapter 7. — For the problem of state control m educatioUj see note 13 
to chapter 7. 

Cp. Aristotle, Politics, III, 9, 6 ff. (1280a). Cp. Burke, French Revolu- 
tion (ed. 1815 ; voL V, 184 ; the passage is aptly quoted by Jowett in his 
notes to the passage of Aristotle’s ; see his edition of Aristotle’s Politics, vol. II, 

The quotation from Aristotle later in the paragraph is op. cit. III, 9, 8, 

Field, for instance, proffers a similar criticism (in his Plato and His Con- 
temporaries, 1 1 7) : ‘ There is no question of the city and its laws exercising any 
educative effect on the moral character of its citizens.’ However, Green has 
clearly shown (in his Lectures on Political Obligation) that it is impossible for the 
state to enforce morality by law. He would certainly have agreed with the 
formula : ‘ We want to moralize politics, and not to politicize morals.’ (See 
end of this paragraph in the text.) Green’s view is foreshadowed by Spinoza 
{Tract TheoL Pol, chapter 20) : ‘ He who seeks to regulate everything by law 
is more likely to encourage vice than to smother it.’ 

I consider the analogy between civil peace and international peace, 
and between ordinary crime and international crime, as fundamental for 
any attempt to get international crime under control. For this analogy 
and its limitations as well as for the poverty of the historicist method in such 
problems, cp. note 7 to chapter 9. 

* Among those who consider rational methods for the establishment of 
international peace as a Utopian dream, H. J. Morgenthau may be mentioned 
(cp. his book, Scientific Man versus Power Politics, English edition, 1947). 
Morgenthau’s position can be summed up as that of a disappointed historicist. 
He realizes that historical predictions are impossible ; but since he assumes 
(with, for example, the Marxists) that the field of applicability of reason (or of 
the scientific method) is limited to the field of predictability, he concludes 
from the impredictability of historical events that reason is inapplicable to 
the field of international affairs. 

The conclusion does not follow, because scientific prediction and pre- 
diction in the sense of historical prophecy are not the same. (None of the 
natural sciences, with practically the sole exception of the theory of the solar 
system, attempts anything resembling historical prophecy.) The task of the 
social sciences is not to predict ‘ trends ’ or ‘ tendencies ’ of development, 
nor is this the task of the natural sciences. ‘ The best the so-called “ social 
laws ” can do is exactly the best the so-called natural laws ” can. do, namely, 
to indicate certain trends . . Which conditions will actually occur and 
help one particular trend to materialize, neither the natural nor the social 
sciences are able to foretell. Nor are they able to forecast with more than a 
high degree of probability that in the presence of certain conditions a certain 
trend will materialize ’, writes Morgenthau (pp. 120 ff. ; italics mine). But 
the natural sciences do not attempt the prediction of trends, and only his- 
toricists believe that they, and the social sciences, have such aims. Accord- 
ingly, the realization that these aims are not realizable will disappoint only 
the historicist. ‘ Many . . political scientists, however, claim that they 
can . . actually . . predict social events with a high degree of certainty. 
In fact, they . . are the victims of . . delusions ’, writes Morgenthau. 
I certainly agree ; but this merely shows that historicism is to be repudiated. 
To assume, however, that the repudiation of historicism means the repudiation 
of rationalism in politics reveals a fundamentally historicist prejudice — the 
prejudice, namely, that historical prophecy is the basis of any rational politics. 
(I have mentioned this view as characteristic of historicism in the beginning 
of chapter i.) 

26 i 

CHAPTER 6/notes 45“46 

Morgenthau ridicules all attempts to bring power under the control of 
reason, and to suppress war, as springing from a rationalism and scientism 
which is inapplicable to society by its very essence. But clearly, he proves 
too much. Civil peace has been established in many societies, in spite of 
that essential lust for power which, according to Morgenthau’s theory, should 
prevent it. He admits the fact, of course, but does not see that it destroys 
the theoretical basis of his romantic contentions.* 

The quotation is from Aristotle’s Politics^ III, 9, 8, (1280). 

(1) I say in the text ‘furthermore’ because I believe that the passages 
alluded to in the text, i.e. Politics^ III, 9, 6, and III, 9, X2, are likely to 
represent Lycophron’s views also. My reasons for believing this are the 
following. From III, 9, 6, to III, 9, 12, Aristotle is engaged in a ctiticisrn of 
the doctrine I have called protectionism. In III, 9, 8, quoted in the text, 
he directly attributes to Lycophron a concise and perfectly clear formulation 
of this doctrine. From Aristotle’s other references to Lycophron (see (2) in 
this note), it is probable that Lycophron’s age was such that he must have 
been, if not the first, at least one of the first to formulate protectionism. Thus 
it seems reasonable to assume (although it is anything but certain) that the 
whole attack upon protectionism, i.e. Ill, 9, 6, to III, 9, 12, is directed against 
Lycophron, and that the various but equivalent formulations of protectionism 
are all his. (It may also be mentioned that Plato describes protectionism 
as a ‘ common view ’ in Rep.^ 358c.) 

Aristotle’s objections are all intended to show that the protectionist theory 
is unable to account for the local as well as the internal unity of the state, 
l! overlooks, he holds (III, 9, 6), the fact that the state exists for the sake of 
the good life in which neither slaves nor beasts can have a share (i.e. for the 
good life of the virtuous landed proprietor, for everybody who earns money 
is by his ‘ banausic ’ occupation prevented from citizenship). It also over- 
looks the tribal unity of the ‘ true ’ state which is (III, 9, 12) ‘a community 
of well-being in families, and an aggregation of families, for the sake of a complete 
and self-sufficient life . . established among men who live m the same place, 
and who intermarry ’. 

(2) For Lycophron’s equalitarianism, see note 13 to chapter 5. — Jowett 
(in Aristotle’s Politics, II, 1 26) describes Lycophron as ‘ an obscure rhetorician ’ ; 
but Aristotle must have thought otherwise, since in his extant writings he 
mentions Lycophron at least six times. (In PoL, RheL, Fragm,, Metaph., 
Phys., Soph, EL) 

It IS unlikely that Lycophron was much younger than Alcidamas, his 
colleague in Gorgias’ school, since his equalitarianism would hardly liave 
attracted so much attention if it had become known after Alcidamas had 
succeeded Gorgias as the head of the school. Lycophron’s epistemological 
interests (mentioned by Aristotle in Metaphysics, I045b9, and Physics, i85b27) 
are_ also a case in point, since they make it probable that he was a pupil of 
Gorgias’ earlier period, i.e. before Gorgias confined himself practically 
exclusively to rhetoric. Of course, any opinion on Lycophron must be highly 
speculative, owing to the scanty information we have. 

Barker, Greek Political Theory, I, p. 160. For Hume’s criticism of the 
historical version of the contract theory, see note 43 to chapter 4, Concerning 
Barker’s further contention (p. 16 1) that Plato’s justice, as opposed to that 
of the contract theory, is not ‘ something external but rather, internal to 
the soul, I may remind the reader of Plato’s frequent recommendations of 
most severe sanctions by which justice may be achieved ; he always recom- 
mends the use of ‘ persuasion and force ’ (cp. notes 5, 10 and 18 to chapter 8). 
On the other hand, some modern democratic states have shown that it is 
possible to be liberal and lenient without increasing criminality. 

With my remark that Barker sees in Lycophron (as I do) the originator 

202 CHAPTER 6/NOTES 47“-52 

of the contract theory, cp. Barker, op city p. 63 : ‘ Protagoras did not anticipate 
the Sophist Lycophron in founding the doctrine of Contract.® (Gp. with this 
the text to note 27 to chapter 5.) 

Cp. Gorgias^ 4^3 b, f 

Cp. Gorgias, 488e-489b ; see also 527b. 

From the way in which Socrates replies here to Callicles, it seems possible 
that the historical Socrates (cp. note 56 to chapter 10) may have countered the 
arguments in support of a biological naturalism of Pindar’s type by arguing 
like this : If it is natural that the stronger should rule, then it is also natural 
that equality should rule, since the multitude which shows its strength by 
the fact that it rules demands equality. In other words, he may have shown 
the empty, ambiguous character of the naturalistic demand. And his success 
might have inspired Plato to proffer his own version of naturalism. 

I do not wish to assert that Socrates’ later remark (508a) on ‘ geometrical 
equality ’ must necessarily be interpreted as anti-equalitarian, i.e. why it must 
mean the same as the ‘ proportionate equity ’ of the Laws, 744b, ff., and 
757a-e (cp. notes 9 and 20 (i) to this chapter). This is what Adam suggests 
in his second note to Republic, 558c 15. But perhaps there is something in his 
suggestion ; for the ‘ geometrical ’ equality of tlxe Gorgias, 508a, seems to 
allude to Pythagorean problems (cp. note 56 (6) to chapter 10 ; see also the 
remarks in that note on the Cratylus) and may well be an allusion to * geometri- 
"cal proportions’. 

Republic, 3580. Glaucon disclaims the authorship in 358c. In reading 
this passage, the reader’s attention is easily distracted by the issue ‘ nature 
versus convention ’, which plays a major role in this passage as well as In 
Callicles’ speech in the Gorgias, However, Plato’s major concern in the 
Republic is not to defeat conventionalism, but to denounce the rational pro- 
tectionist approach as selfish. (That the conventionalist contract theory was 
not Plato’s mam enemy emerges from notes 27-28 to chapter 5, and text.) 

If we compare Plato’s presentation of protectionism in the Republic 
with that in the Gorgias, then we find that it is indeed the same theory, 
although in the Republic much less emphasis is laid on equality. But even 
equality is mentioned, although only in passing, viz., in Republic, 359c : 
‘ Nature . . , by conventional law, is twisted round and compelled by force 
to honour equality.’ This remark increases the similarity with Callicles’ 
speech. (See Gorgias, esp. 483c/d.) But as opposed to the Gorgias, Plato 
drops equality at once (or rather, he does not even take the issue up) 
and never returns to it ; whtch makes it only the more obvious that he was 
at pains to avoid the problem. Instead, Plato revels in the description of the 
cynical egoism which he presents as the only source from which protectionism 
springs. (For Plato’s silence on equalitarianism, cp. especially note 14 to 
this chapter, and text.) A. E. Taylor, Plato : The Man and His Work (1926), 
p. 268, contends that while Callicles starts from ‘ nature Glaucon starts 
from * convention ’. 

SI Cp. Republic, 359a ; my further allusions in the text are to 359b, 36od, ff. ; 
see also 358c. For the ‘rubbing in’, cp. 359a-362c, and the elaboration 
down to 3670, Plato’s description of the nihilistic tendencies of protectionism 
fills altogether nine pages in the Everyman edition of the Republic ; an indi- 
cation of the significance Plato attached to it. (There is a parallel passage in 
the Law^, Booa, f.) 

When Glaucon has finished his presentation, Adeimantus takes his 
place (with a very interesting and indeed most pertinent challenge to Socrates 
to criticize utilitarianism), yet not until Socrates has stated that he thinks 
Glaucon’s presentation an excellent one (362d). Adeimantus’ speech is an 
amendment of Glaucon’s, and it reiterates the claim that what I call protec- 
tionism derives from Thrasymachus’ nihilism (see especially 367a, ff.) After 

CHAPTER 7 /NOTES I --2 263 

Adeimantus, Socrates himself speaks^ full of admiration for Glaucon as well 
as Adeimantus, because their belief in justice is unshaken in spite of the fact 
that they presented the case for injustice so excellently, i.e. the theory that it is good 
to inflict injustice as long as one can ‘ get away with it By emphasizing 
the excellence of the arguments proffered by Glaucon and Adeimantus, 
‘ Socrates ^ (i.e. Plato) implies that these arguments are a fair presentation 
of the views discussed ; and he ultimately states his own theory, not in order 
to show that Glaucon’s representation needs emendation, but, as he emphasizes, 
in order to show that, contrary to the opinions of the protectionists, justice is 
good, and injustice evil. (It should not be forgotten — cp. note 49 to this 
chapter — that Plato’s attack is not directed against the contract theory as 
such but solely against protectionism ; for the contract theory is soon {Rep,, 
369b“C ; cp. text to note 29 to chapter 5) adopted by Plato himself, at least 
partially ; including the theory that people ^ gather into settlements ’ because 
^ every one expects in this way to further his ovm interests ’,) 

It must also be mentioned that the passage culminates with the impressive 
remark of ‘ Socrates ’ quoted in the text to note 37 to this chapter. This 
shows that Plato combats protectionism only by presenting it as an immoral 
and indeed unholy form of egoism. 

Finally, in forming our judgement on Plato’s procedure, we must not 
forget that Plato likes to argue against rhetoric and sophistry ; and indeed, 
that he is the man who by his attacks on the ‘ Sophists ’ created the bad 
associations connected with that word. I believe that we therefore have 
every reason to censor him when he himself makes use of rhetoric and sophistry 
in place of argument. (Cp. also note 10 to chapter 8.) 

We may take Adam and Barker as representative of the Platonists 
mentioned here. Adam says (note to 3580, ff.) of Glaucon that he resuscitates 
Thrasymachus’ theory, and he says (note to 373a, ff.) of Thrasymachus that 
his is ‘ the same theory which is afterwards (in 3580, ff.) represented by 
Glaucon Barker says {op ciL, 159) of the theory which I call protectionism 
and which he calls * pragmatism that it is ‘ in the same spirit as 

That the great sceptic Carneades believed in Plato’s presentation can 
be seen from Cicero {De Republica, III, 8 ; 13 ; 23), where Glaucon’s version 
is presented, practically without alteration, as the theory adopted by Carneades. 
(See also text to notes 65 and 66 and note 56 to chapter 10.) 

In this connection I may express my opinion, that one can find a great 
deal of comfort in the fact that anti-humanitarians have always found it 
necessary to appeal to our humanitarian sentiments ; and also in the fact 
that they have frequently succeeded in persuading us of their sincerity. It 
shows that they are well aware that these sentiments are deeply rooted in most 
of us, and that the despised ‘ many ’ are too good, too candid, and too guileless, 
rather than too bad ; while they are even ready to be told by their often 
unscrupulous * betters ’ that they are unworthy and materialistically minded 
egoists who only want to ‘ fill their bellies like the beasts 


The motto to this chapter is from 'the Laws, 690b. (Cp. note 28 to 
chapter 5.) 

^ Gp. text to notes 2/3 to chapter 6. 

® Similar ideas have been expressed by J. S. Mill ; thus he writes in his 
Logic (ist ed., p, 557 f.) : ‘ Although the actions of rulers are by no means 
wholly determined by their selfish interests, it is as security against those 
selfish interests that constitutional checks are required.’ Similarly he writes 

264 CHAPTER 7 /NOTE 2 

in The Subjection of Women (p. 25 1 of the Everyman edition ; italics mine) : 

* Who doubts that there may be great goodness, and great happiness and 
great affection, under the absolute government of a good man? Mean- 
while laws and institutions require to be adapted, not to good men, but to badJ Much 
as I agree with the sentence in italics, I feel that the admission contained in 
the first part of the sentence is not really called for. (Cp. especially note 25 (3) 
to this chapter.) A similar admission may be found in an excellent passage 
of his Representative Government (1861 ; see especially p. 49) where Mill combats 
the Platonic ideal of the philosopher king because, especially if his rule should 
be a benevolent one, it will involve the * abdication ’ of the ordinary citizen’s will, 
and ability, to judge a policy. 

It may he remarked that this admission of J. S. Mill’s was part of 
an attempt to resolve the conflict between James Mill’s Essay on Government 
and ‘ Macaulay’s famous attack ’ on it (as J. S. Mill calls it ; cp. his Auto- 
biography, chapter V, One Stage Onward ; ist edition, 1873, pp. 157-61 ; 
Macaulay’s criticisms were first published in the Edinburgh Review, Alaich 
1829, June 1829, and October 1829). This conflict played a great role in 
J. S. Mill’s development ; his attempt to resolve it determined, indeed, the 
ultimate aim and character of his Logic (‘ the principle chapters of what I 
afterwards published on the Logic of the Moral Sciences ’) as we hear from 
his Autobiography. 

The resolution of the conflict between his father and Macaulay which 
J. S. Mill proposes is this. He says that his father was right in believirig that 
politics was a deductive science, but wrong in believing that ‘ the type of 
deduction (was) that of . . pure geometry ’, while Macaulay was right in 
believing that it was more experimental than this, but wrong in believing that 
it was like * the purely experimental method of chemistry ’. The true solution 
according to J. S. Mill {Autobiography, pp. 159 ff.) is this : the appropriate 
method of politics is the deductive one of dynamics — a method which, he 
believes, is characterized by the summation of effects as exemplified in the 
‘ principle of the Composition of Forces ’. (That this idea of J. S. Mill sur- 
vived at any rate down to 1937 is shown in my The Poverty of Histvricism, p 63.) 

I do not think that there is very much in this analysis (which is based, 
apart from other things, upon a misinterpretation of dynamics and chemistry). 
Yet so much would seem to be defensible. 

James Mill, like many before and after him, tried to ‘ deduce the science 
of government from the principles of human nature ’ as Macaulay said 
(towards the end of his first paper), and Macaulay was right, I think, to des- 
cribe this attempt as ‘ utterly impossible Also, Macaulay’s method could 
perhaps be described as more empirical, in so far as he made full use of his- 
torical facts for the purpose of refuting J. Mill’s dogmatic theories. But the 
method which he practised has nothing to do with that of chemistry, or with 
that which J. S. Mill believed to be the method of chemistry (or with the 
Baconian inductive method which, irritated by J. Mill’s syllogisms, Macaulay 
praised). It was simply the method of rejecting invalid logical demonstra- 
tions in a field in which nothing of interest can be logically demonstrated, 
and of discussing theories and possible situations, in the light of alternative 
theories and of alternative possibilities, and of factual historical evidence. 
One of the main points at issue was that J. Mill believed that he had demon- 
strated the necessity for monarchy and aristocracy to produce a rule of terror 
— a point which was easily refuted by examples. J S. Mill’s two passages 
quoted at the beginning of this note show the influence of this refutation. 

Macaulay always emphasized that he only wanted to reject Mill’s proofs, 
and not to pronounce on the truth or falsity of his alleged conclusions. This 
alone should have made it clear that he did not attempt to practise the induc- 
tive method which he praised. 

CHAPTER 7 /NOTES 3-4 265 

® Cp. for instance E. Meyer’s remark (Gesch, d, Altertums, V, p. 4) that 
* power is, in its very essence, indivisible 

^ Cp. Republic^ 562b-565e. In the text, I am alluding especially to 562c : 
‘ Does not the excess ’ (of liberty) ‘ bring men to such a state that they badly 
want a tyranny ? ’ Cp furthermore 563d/e : ‘ And in the end, as you know 
well enough, they just do not take any notice of the laws, whether written or 
unwritten, since they want to have no despot of any kind over them. This 
then is the origin out of which tyranny springs.’ (For the beginning of this 
passage, see note 19 to chapter 4.) 

Other remarks of Plato’s on the paradoxes of freedom and of democracy are : 
Republic^ 564a : ‘ Then too much freedom is liable to change into nothing 
else but too much slavery, in the individual as well as in the state . . Hence 
it is reasonable to assume that tyranny is enthroned by no other form of govern- 
ment than by democracy. Out of what I believe is the greatest possible 
excess of freedom springs what is the hardest and most savage lorm of slavery^’ 
See also Republic, 565c/d : ‘ And are not the common people in the habit 
of making one man their champion or party leader, and of exalting his position 
and making him great ? ’ — ‘ This is their habit.’ — ‘ Then it seems clear that 
whenever a tyranny grows up, this democratic party-leadership is the origin 
from which it springs.’ 

The so-called paradox of freedom is the argument that freedom in the 
sense of absence of any restraining control must lead to very great restraint, 
since it makes the bully free to enslave the meek. This idea is, in a slightly 
different form, and with a very different tendency, clearly expressed by 

Less well known is the paradox of tolerance : Unlimited tolerance must lead 
to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to 
those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society 
against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, 
and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, 
that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies ; as 
long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check 
by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But w^e 
should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force ; for it may 
easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational 
argument, but begin by denouncing ail argument ; they may forbid their 
followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach 
them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should 
therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. 
We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself out- 
side the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecudon 
as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or 
to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal. 

Another of the less well-known paradoxes is the paradox of democracy, or 
more precisely, of majority-rule ; i.e. the possibility that the majority mav 
decide that a tyrant should rule. That Plato’s ciiticism of democracy can be 
interpreted in the way sketched here, and that the principle of majority-rule 
may lead to self-contradictions, was first suggested, as far as I know, by Leonard 
Nelson (cp. note 25 (2) to this chapter). I do not think, however, that 
Nelson, who, in spite of his passionate humanitarianism and his ardent fight 
for freedom, adopted much of Plato’s political theory, and especially Plato’s 
principle of leadership, was aware of the fact that analogous arguments can 
be raised against all the different particular forms of the theoiy of sovereignty. 

All these paradoxes can easily be avoided if we frame our political demands 
in the way suggested m section ii of this chapter, or perhaps in some such 
manner as this. We demand a government that rules according to the 

266 CHAPTER 7/nOTES 5-9 

principles of equalitarianism and protectionism ; that tolerates all who are 
prepared to reciprocate, i.e. who are tolerant ; that is controlled by, and 
accountable to, the public. And we may add that some form of majority 
vote, together with institutions for keeping the public well informed, is the best, 
though not infallible, means of controlling such a government. (No infallible 
means exist.) Cp. ilso chapter 6, the last four paragraphs in the text prior 
to note 42 ; text to note 20 to chapter 1 7 ; note 7 (4) to chapter 24 ; and 
note 6 to the present chapter. 

® Further remarks on ibis point will be found in chapter 19, below. 

® Cp. passage (7) in note 4 to chapter 2. 

The following remarks on the paradoxes of freedom and of sovereignty may 
possibly appear to carry the argument too far ; since, however, the arguments 
discussed in this place are of a somewhat formal character, it may be just as 
well to make them more watertight, even if it involves something approaching 
hair-splitting. Moreover, my experience in debates of this kind leads me to 
expect that the defenders of the leader-principle, i.e. of the sovereignty of the 
best or the wisest, may actually offer the following counter-argument : {a) if 
‘ the wisest * should decide that the majority should rule, then he was not really 
wise. As a further consideration they may support this by the assertion (^) 
that a wise man would never establish a principle which might lead to contra- 
dictions, like that of majority-rule. My reply to {b) would be that we need 
only to alter this decision of the ‘ wise ’ man in such a way that it becomes free 
from contradictions. (For instance, he could decide in favour of a government 
bound to rule according to the principle of equalitarianism and protectionism, 
and controlled by majority vote. This decision of the wise man would give 
up the sovereignty-principle ; and since it would thereby become free from 
contradictions, it may be made by a * wise ’ man. But of course, this would 
not free the principle that the wisest should rule from its contradictions. 
The other argument, namely {a), is a different matter. It comes dangerously 
close to defining the ‘ wisdom ’ or ‘ goodness ’ of a politician in such a way 
that he is called ‘ wise ’ or ‘ good ’ only if he is determined not to give up his 
power. And indeed, the only sovereignty-theory which is free from con- 
tradictions would be the theory which demands that only a man who is 
absolutely determined to cling to his power should rule. Those who believe 
in the leader-principle should frankly face this logical consequence of their 
creed. If freed from contradictions it implies, not the rule of the best or 
wisest, but the rule of the strong man, of the man of power. (Cp. also note 7 
to chapter 24.) 

^ * Cp. my lecture Towards a Rational Theory of Tradition (first published 
in The Rationalist Tearbooky 1 949 ; now in my Conjectures and Refutations) , where 
I try to show that traditions play a kind of intermediate and intermediary r61e 
between persons (and personal decisions) and institutions.* 

® For Socrates* behaviour under the Thirty, see Apology^ 32c. The Thirty 
tried to implicate Socrates in their crimes, but he resisted. This would have 
meant death to him if the rule of the Thirty had continued a little longer. 
Cp. also notes 53 and 56 to chapter 10. 

For the contention, later in the paragraph, that wisdom means knowing 
the limitations of one’s knowledge, see the CharmideSy 167a, 170a, where the 
meaning of ‘ know thyself ’ is explained in this way ; the Apology (cp. 
especially 23a-b) exhibits a similar tendency (of which there is still an echo 
in the TimaeuSy 72a). For the important modification in the interpretation 
of* know thyself’ which takes place in the PhilebuSy see note 26 to the present 
chapter. (Cp. also note 15 to chapter 8.) 

® Cp. Plato’s Phaedoy 96-99. The Phaedo is, I believe, still partly Socratic, 
but very largely Platonic. The story of his philosophical development told 
by the Socrates of the Phaedo has given rise to much discussion. It is, 

CHAPTER 7/NOTES 10-20 267 

I believe, an authentic autobiography neither of Socrates nor of Plato. 
I suggest that it is simply Platons interpretation of Socrates’ development. 
Socrates’ attitude towards science (an attitude which combined the keenest 
interest in rational argument with a kind of modest agnosticism) was 
incomprehensible to Plato. He tried to explain it by referring to the 
backwardness of Athenian science in Socrates’ day, as opposed to Pytha- 
goreanism. Plato thus presents this agnostic attitude in such a way that 
It is no longer justified in the light of his newly acquired Pythagoreanism. 
(And he tries to show how much the new metaphysical theories of the soul 
would have appealed to Socrates’ burning interest in the individual ; cp. 
notes 44 and 56 to chapter 10, and note 58 to chapter 8.) 

10 It is the version that involves the square root of two, and the problem 
of irrationality ; i.e. it is the very problem that precipitated the dissolution 
of Pythagoreanism. By refuting the Pythagorean anthmetization of geometry, 
it gave rise to the specific deductive-geometrical methods which we know 
from Euclid. (Cp. note 9 (2) to chapter 6.) The use of this problem in 
the Meno might be connected with the fact that there is a tendency in some 
parts of this dialogueto ‘ show off ’ the author’s (hardly Socrates’) acquaint- 
ance with the ‘latest ’ philosophical developments and methods. 

Gorgias^ 52id, f. 

Gp. Crossman, Plato To-Day ^ 1 18. ‘ Faced by these three cardinal errors 

of Athenian Democracy . — How truly Crossman understands Soci'ates may 

be seen from op. at., 93 : ‘ All that is good in our Western culture has sprung 
from this spirit, whether it is found in scientists, or priests, or politicians, or 
quite ordinary men and women who have refused to prefer political falsehoods 
to simple truth . . in the end, their example is the only force which can break 
the dictatorship of force and greed . . . Socrates showed that philosophy is 
nothing else than conscientious objection to prejudice and unreason.’ 

Cp. Grossman, op. cit , 117 f, (first group of italics mine). It seems 
that Crossman has for the moment forgotten that, in Plato’s state, education 
is a class monopoly. It is true that in the Republic the possession of money 
is not a key to higher education. But this is quite unimportant. The 
important point is that only the members of the ruling class are educated. 
(Cp. note 33 to chapter 4.) Besides, Plato was, at least in his later life, any- 
thing but an opponent of plutocracy, which he much preferred to a classless or 
equalitarian society : cp. the passage from the Laws, 744b, ff., quoted in 
note 20 (i) to chapter 6. For the problem of state control in education, cp. 
also note 42 to that chapter, and notes 39-41, chapter 4. 

Burnet takes {Greek Philosophy, I, 178) the Republic to be purely Socratic 
(or even pre-Socratic — a view which may be nearer to the truth ; cp. 
especially A. D. Wmspear, The Genesis of Platons Thought, 1940). But he does 
not even seriously attempt to reconcile this opinion with an important state- 
ment which he quotes from Plato’s Seventh Letter (326a, cp. Greek Philosophy, I, 
218) which he believes to be authentic. Cp. note 56 (5, d) to chapter 10. 

Laws, 942c, quoted more fully in text to note 33, chapter 6. 

R> public, 540c. 

Cp. the quotations from the Republic, 4730-0, quoted in text to note 44, 
chapter 8. 

Republic, 498b /c. Cp. the Laws, 634d/e, m which Plato praises the 
Dorian law that ‘ forbids any young man to question which of the laws are 
right and which are wrong, and makes them all unanimous in proclaiming 
that the laws are all good ’. Only an old man may criticize a law, adds the 
old writer ; and even he may do so only when no young man can hear him. 
See also text to note 21 to this chapter, and notes 17, 23 and 40 to chapter 4. 

Republic, 497d. 

Op, at., 537c. The next quotations are from 537d-e, and 539d. The 



‘ continuation of this passage ’ is 54ob-c. Another most interesting remark 
is 536c-d, where Plato says that the persons selected (in the previous passage) 
for dialectical studies are decidedly too old for learning new subjects. 

21 * Cp, H. Gherniss, The Riddle of the Early Academy^ p. 79 ; and the 
Parmenides^ X35C-d.* 

Grote, the great democrat, strongly comments on this point (i.e. on the 
‘ brighter ’ passages of the Republic , 537 c- 54 o) • ‘ The dictum forbidding 
dialectic debate with youth . . is decidedly anti-Socratic. . . It belongs 
indeed to the case of Meletus and Anytus, in their indictment against Socrates. 

. . It is identical with their charge against him, of corrupting the youth. . . 
And when we find him ( = Plato) forbidding all such discourse at an earlier 
age than thirty years — ^we remark as a singular coincidence that this is the 
exact prohibition which Critias and Gharicles actually imposed upon Socrates 
himself, during the short-lived dominion of the Thirty Oligarchs at x\thens.* 
(Grote, Plato, and the Other Companions of Socrates, ed. 1875, vol. Ill, 239.) 

22 The idea, contested in the text, that those who are good in obeying 
will also be good in commanding is Platonic. Cp. Laivs, 7620. 

Toynbee has admirably shown how successfully a Platonic system of 
educating rulers may work — in an arrested society ; cp. A Study of History, 
III, especially 33 ff. ; cp. notes 32 (3) and 45 (2) to chapter 4. 

22 Some may perhaps ask how an individualist can demand devotion to 
any cause, and especially to such an abstract cause as scientific inquiry. But 
such a question would only reveal the old mistake (discussed in the foregoing 
chapter), the identification of individualism and egoism. An individualist 
can be unselfish, and he can devote himself not only to the help of individuals, 
but also to the development of the institutional means for helping other 
people. (Apart from that, I do not think that devotion, should be demanded, 
but only that it should be encouraged,) I believe that devotion to certain 
institutions, for instance, to those of a democratic state, and even to certain 
traditions, may fall well within the realm of individualism, provided that the 
humanitarian aims of these institutions are not lost sight of. Individualism 
must not be identified with an anti-institutional personalism. This is a 
mistake frequently made by individualists. They are right in their hostility 
to collectivism, but they mistake institutions for collectives (which claim to be 
aims in themselves), and therefore become anti-institutional personalists ; 
which leads them dangerously close to the leader-principle. (I believe that 
this partly explains Dickens’ hostile attitude towards Parliament.) For my 
terminology (‘ individualism ’ and ‘ collectivism ’) see text to notes 26-29 to 
chapter 6. 

24 Cp. Samuel Butler, Erewhon (1872), p. 135 of the Everyman’s edition. 

26 Cp. for these events : Meyer, Gesch, d. Altertums, V, pp. 522-525, and 
488 f. ; see also note 69 to chapter 10. The Academy was notorious for 
breeding tyrants. Among Plato’s pupils were Chairon, later the tyrant of 
Pellene ; Eurastus and Coriscus, the tyrants of Skepsis (near Atarneus) ; and 
Hermias, later tyrant of Atarneus and Assos. (Cp. Atken , XI, 508, and 
Strabo, XIII, 610.) Hermias was, according to some sources, a direct pupil 
of Plato’s ; according to the so-called ‘ Sixth Platonic Letter ’, whose 
authenticity is questionable, he was perhaps only an admirer of Plato’s, ready 
to accept his advice. Hermias became a patron of Aristotle, and of the third 
head of the Academy, Plato’s pupil Xenocrates. 

For Perdiccas III, and his relations to Plato’s pupil Euphacus, see Athen., 
XI, 508 ff,, where Caliippus is also referred to as Plato’s pupil. 

( I ) Plato’s lack of success as an educator is not very surprising if we look 
at the principles of education and selection developed in the First Book of the 
Laws (from 63 7d and especially 643a ; ‘ Let me define the nature and meaning 
of education ’ to the end of 650b). For in this long passage he shows that 

CHAPTER 7 /NOTE 26 269 

there is one great instrument of educating, or rather, of selecting the man one 
can trust. It is wine, drunkenness, which will loose his tongue, and give 
you an idea of what he is really like. ‘ What is more fitting than to make 
use of wine, first of all to test the character of a man, and secondly, to train 
him? What is cheaper, and less objectionable ? ’ (649d/e). So far, I have 
not seen the method of drinking discussed by any of the educationists who 
glorify Plato. This is strange, for the method is still widely in use, even though 
it is perhaps no longer so cheap, especially in the universities. 

(2) In fairness to the leader-principle, it must be admitted, however, 
that others have been more fortunate than Plato in their selection. Leonard 
Nelson (cp. note 4 to this chapter), for instance, who believed in this principle, 
seems to have had a unique power both of attracting and of selecting a number 
of men and women who have remained true to their cause, m the most trying 
and tempting circumstances. But theirs was a better cause than Plato’s ; it 
was the humanitarian idea of freedom and equalitarian justice. * (Some of 
Nelson’s essays have just been published in an English translation, by Yale 
University Press, under the title Socmtic Method arid Critical Pkibsopkyy 1949. 
The very interesting introductory essay is by Julius Kraft.) * 

(3) There remains this fundamental weakness in the theory of the 
benevolent dictator, a theory still flourishing even among some democrats. 
I have in mind the theory of the leading personality whose intentions are 
for the best of his people and who can be trusted. Even if that theory were 
in order ; even if we believe that a man can continue, without being controlled 
or checked, in such an attitude : how can we assume that he will detect a 
successor of the same rare excellence ? (Cp. also notes 3 and 4 to chapter 9, 
and note 69 to chapter 10.) 

(4) Concerning the problem of power, mentioned in the text, it is interest- 
ing to compare the Gorgias (525e, f.) with the Republic (61 sd, £), The two 
passages are closely parallel. But the Gorgias insists that the greatest criminals 
are always ‘ men who come from the class which possesses power ’ ; private 
persons may be bad, it is said, but not incurable. In the Republic, this clear 
warning against the corrupting influence of power is omitted. Most of the 
greatest sinners are still tyrants j but, it is said, ‘ there are also some private 
people among them ’, (In the Republic, Plato relies on self-interest which, 
he trusts, will prevent the guardians from misusing their power ; cp. Rep., 
466b/c, quoted in text to note 41, chapter 6. It is not quite clear why self- 
interest should have such a beneficial effect on guardians, but not on tyrants.) 

* In tlie early (Socratic) dialogues (e g. in the Apology and the Charmides ; 
cp. note 8 to the present chapter, note 15 to chapter 8 and note 56 (5) to 
chapter 10), the saying * know thyself’ is interpreted as ‘know how little 
you know The late (Platonic) dialogue Philebus, however, introduces a 
subtle but very important change. At first (48c/d, fi), the saying is here 
interpreted, by implication, in the same way ; for the many who do not 
know themselves are said to be ‘claiming, . . and lying, that they are 
wise ’. But this interpretation is now developed as follows. Plato divides 
men into two classes, the weak and the powerful. The ignorance and folly 
of the weak man is described as laughable, while ‘ the ignorance of the strong * 
is ‘ appropriately called “ evil ” and “ hateful ” . But this implies the 
Platonic doctrine that he who wields power ought to be wise rather than ignorant 
(or that only he who is wise ought to wield power) ; in opposition to the 
original Socratic doctrine that (everybody, and especially) he who wields power 
ought to be aware of his ignorance. (There is, of course, no suggestion in the 
Philebus that ‘ wisdom * in its turn ought to be interpreted as ‘ awareness of 
one’s limitations ’ ; on the contrary, wisdom involves here an expert know- 
ledge of Pythagorean teaching, and of the Platonic Theory of Forms, as 
developed in the Sophist.)"^ 




With the motto for this chapter, taken from Republic 540C-<1, cp. note 37 
to this chapter, and note m to chapter 9, where the passage is quoted more 

1 Republic^ 4750 ; cp. for instance also 485c, f., 501c. 

^ Op, city 389b, f. 

3 Op. city 389c /d ; cp. also LawSy 730b, ff. 

^ With this and the three following quotations, cp. Republic, 4070 and 406c. 
See also Statesman, 293a, f., 295b~296e, etc. 

® Cp. Laws, 720c. It is interesting to note that the passage (7i8c--722b) 
serves to introduce the idea that the statesman should use persuasion, together 
with force (722b) ; and since by * persuasion ^ of the masses, Plato means 
largely lying propaganda — cp. notes 9 and 10 to this chapter and the quotation 
from i2€^ti^/zc,4i4b/c, quoted there in the text — it turns out that Plato’s thought 
in our passage from the Laws, in spite of this novel gentleness, is still pervaded 
by the old associations — the doctor-politician administering lies. Later on 
(Laws, 857c/d), Plato complains about an opposite type of doctor : one who 
talks too much philosophy to his patient, instead of concentrating on the cure. 
It seems likely enough that Plato reports here some of his experiences when 
he fell ill while writing the Laws, 

® Republic, 389b. — With the following short quotations cp. Republic, 459c. 

’ Cp. Kant, On Eternal Peace, Appendix, (Werke, ed. Cassirer, 1914, voL 
VI, 457.) Cp. M. Campbell Smith’s translation (1903), pp. 162 ff. 

® Cp. Crossman, Plato To-Day (1937), 130 ; cp. also the immediately ^ 
preceding pages. It seems that Crossman still believes that lying propaganda ' 
was intended only for the consumption of the ruled, and that Plato intended 
to educate the rulers to a full use of their critical faculties ; for I find now 
(in The Listener, voL 27, p. 750) that he writes : * Plato believed in free speech, 
free discussion only for the select few.’ But the fact is that he did not believe 
in it at all. Both in the Republic and in the Laws (cp. the passages quoted in 
notes 18-21 to chapter 7, and text), he expresses his fear lest anybody who is 
not yet on the verge of old age should think or speak freely, and thus endanger 
the rigidity of the arrested doctrine, and therefore the petrifaction of the 
arrested society. See also the next two notes. 

® Republic, In 4i4d, Plato reaffirms his hope of persuading * the 

rulers themselves and the military class, and then the rest of the city ’, of the 
truth of his lie. Later he seems to have regretted his frankness ; for in the 
Statesman, 269b, ff. (see especially 271b ; cp. also note 6 (4) to chapter 3), he 
speaks as if he believed in the truth of the same Myth of the Earthborn which, 
in the Republic, he had been reluctant (see note 1 1 to this chapter) to introduce 
even as a lordly ‘ lie ’. 

* What I translate as a ^ lordly lie ’ is usually translated * noble lie ’ or 
* noble falsehood * or even * spirited fiction 

The literal translation of the word ‘ gennaios ’ which I now translate by 
‘ lordly ’ is ‘ high born * or ‘ of noble descent Thus ‘ lordly lie ’ is at least 
as literal as ‘ noble lie ’, but it avoids the associations which the term ‘ noble 
lie ’ might suggest, and which are in no way warranted by the situation, viz. 
a lie by which a man nobly takes something upon himself which endangers 
him — ^such as Tom Sawyer’s lie by which he takes Becky’s guilt upon himself 
and which Judge Thatcher (in chapter XXXV) describes as ‘ a noble, a 
generous, a magnanimous lie There is no reason whatever why the ‘ lordly 
lie * should be considered in this^^ight ; thus the translation * noble lie ’ is 
just one of the typical attempts at idealizing Plato. — Gornford translates 
‘ a • . bold flight of invention and argues in a footnote against the trans- 

GHAP'TER 8 /note 10 2/ 1 

lation ‘ noble lie ’ ; he gives passages where ‘ gennaios ’ means ‘ on a generous 
scale * ; and indeed, ‘ big lie * or ‘ grand lie ’ would be a perfectly appro- 
priate translation. But Gornford at the same time argues against the use of 
the term ‘ he ’ ; he describes the myth as * Plato’s harmless allegory ’ and 
argues against the idea that Plato ‘ would countenance lies, for the most part 
ignoble, now called propaganda * ; and in the next footnote he says : ‘ Note 
that the Guardians themselves are to accept this allegory, if possible. It is 
not “ propaganda ” foisted on the masses by the Rulers.’ But all these 
attempts at idealization fail, Plato himself makes it quite clear that the lie 
is one for which one ought to feel ashamed ; see the last quotation in note 1 1, 
below. (In the first edition of, this book, I translated ‘ inspired lie alluding 
to its * high birth and suggested * ingenious lie ’ as an alternative ; this was 
criticized both as too free and as tendentious by some of my Platonic friends. 
But Gornford ’s ‘ bold flight of invention ’ takes ‘ gennaios ’ in precisely the 
same sense.) 

See also notes lO and i8 to this chapter.* 

Cp. Republic, quoted in the text to note 35 to chapter 5 ; on 

persuasion and force, see also Republic, 366d, discussed in the present note, below, 
and the passages referred to in notes 5 and 18 to this chapter. 

The Greek word (‘peitho its personification is an alluring goddess, an 
attendant of Aphrodite) usually translated by persuasion can mean {a) ‘ per- 
suasion by fair means ’ and (f>) ‘ talking over by foul means i e. ‘ make- 
believe ’- (see below, sub. (D), i e. Rep., 414c), and sometimes it means 
even ‘ persuasion by gifts ’, i.e. bribery (see below, sub. (D), i.e. Rep., 
39oe). Especially in the phrase ‘persuasion and force’, the term ‘per- 
suasion * is often {Rep. 5486) interpreted in sense {a), and the phrase is often 
(and often appropriately) translated * by fair means or foul ’ (cp. Davies’ 
and Vaughan’s translation * by fair means or foul ’, of the passage (G), 
Rep., 3653, quoted below). I believe, however, that Plato, when recom- 
mending ‘ persuasion and force ’ as instruments of political technique, uses 
the wor 3 s in a more literal sense, and that he recommends the use of rhetorical 
propaganda together with violence. (Gp. Laws, 66ic, 711c, 722b, 753a.) 

The following passages are significant for Plato’s use of the term ‘ per- 
suasion’ in sense if), and especially in connection with political propaganda. 
(A) Gorgias, 453a to 466a, especially 454b-455a ; Phaedrus, 260b, ff., Theaeietus, 
20 la ; Sophist, 222c ; Statesman, 296b, ff., 304c/d ; Philebus, 58a. In all 
these passages, persuasion (the ‘ art of persuasion ’ as opposed to the ‘ art 
of imparting true knowledge ’) is associated with rhetoric, make-believe, and 
propaganda. In the Republic, 364b, f., especially 364e-365d (cp. Laws, 
909b), deserves attention. {B) In 3640 (‘ they persuade i.e. mislead into 
believing, ‘ not only individuals, but whole cities ’), the term is used much 
in the same sense as in 4i4b/c (quoted m the text to note 9, this chapter), the 
passage of the ‘ lordly lie ’. (C) 365d is interesting because it uses a term 

which Lindsay translates very aptly by ‘ cheating ’ as a kind of paraphrase 
for ‘ persuading (‘ In order not to be caught . . we have the masters of 
persuasion at our disposal ; . . thus by persuasion and force, we shall escape 
punishment. But, it may be objected, one cannot cheat, or force, the gods . .’) 
Furthermore (D) in Republic, 39oe, f., the term ‘ persuasion ’ is used in the 
sense of bribery. (This must be an old use ; the passage is supposed to be a 
quotation from Hesiod. It is interesting that Plato, who so often argues 
against the idea that men can ‘ persuade ’ or bribe the gods, makes some con- 
cession to it in the next passage, 399a/b.) Next we come to 4i4b/c, the 
passage of the ‘ lordly lie ’ ; immediately after this passage, in 414c (cp, also 
the next note in this chapter), ‘ Socrates * makes the cynical remark {E) : 

* It would need much persuading to make anybody believe in this story.’ 
Lastly, I may mention (F) Republic, 51 id and 5330, where Plato speaks of 

272 CHAPTER 8 /NOTES 11“ 1 3 

persuasion or belief or faith (the root of the Greek word for ‘ persuasion ’ is 
the same as that of our ‘ faith ’) as a lower cognitive faculty of the soul, 
corresponding to the formation of (delusive) opinion about things in flux 
(cp. note 21 to chapter 3, and especially the use of ‘ persuasion ’ in Tim,, 510), 
as opposed to rational knowledge of the unchanging Forms. For the problem 
of ‘moral* persuasion, see also chapter 6, especially notes 52/54 and text, 
and chapter 10, especially text to notes 56 and 65, and note 69. 

Republic i 415a. The next quotation is from 415c. (See also the 
Cratylus, 398a.) Cp. notes 12-14 to the present chapter and text, and notes 
27 (3)5 29, and 31 to chapter 4. 

(i) For my remark in the text, earliei in this paragraph, concerning Plato’s 
uneasiness, see Republic, 4i4C-d, and last note, {E) : ‘ It would need much 
persuading to make anybody believe in this story,’ says Socrates. — ‘ You seem 
to be rather reluctant to tell it,’ replies Glaucon — ‘ You will understand my 
reluctance ’, says Socrates, ‘ when I have told it.’ — ‘ Speak and don’t be 
frightened ’, says Glaucon This dialogue introduces w^hat I call the first idea 
of the Myth (proffered by Plaio in the Statesman as a true stoiy ; cp. note 9 to 
this chapter ; see also Laws, 740a). As mentioned in the text, Plato suggests 
that it is this * first idea ’ which is the reason for his hesitation, for Glaucon 
replies to this idea : ‘ Not without reason were you so long ashamed to tell 
your lie.’ No similar rhetorical remark is made after Socrates has told ‘ the 
rest of the story ’, i e., the Myth of Racialism. 

* (q) Concerning the autochthonous warriors, we must remember that 
the Athenian nobility claimed (as opposedto the Dorians) to be the aborigines 
of their country, born of the earth ‘ like grasshoppers ’ (as Plato says in the 
Symposium, 191b ; see also end of note 52 to the present chapter). It has 
been suggested to me b\ a friendly critic that Socrates’ uneasiness, and 
Glaucon’s comment that Socrates had reason to be ashamed, mentioned here- 
under (i), is to be interpreted as an ironical allusion of Plato’s to the Athenians 
who, in spite of their claim to be autochthonous, did not defend their country 
as they would defend a mother. But this ingenious suggestion does not appear 
to me a tenable one Plato, with his openly admitted preference of Sparta, 
w^ould be the last to charge the Athenians with lack of patriotism ; and there 
w'ould be no justice in such a charge, for in the Peloponnesian war, the 
Athenian democrats never gave in to Sparta (as will be showm in chapter 10), 
w^hile Plato's own beloved uncle Cntias did give in, and became the leader 
of a puppet government under the protection of the Spartans. If Plato 
intended to allude ironically to an inadequate defence of Athens, then it could 
be only an allusion to the Peloponnesian w’ar. and thus a criticism of Ciitias — 
the last person whom Plato would criticize in this way. 

(3) Plato calls his Myth a ‘ Phoenician lie ’. A suggestion which may 
explain this is due to R. Eisler. He points out that the Ethiopians, Greeks 
(the silver mines), Sudanese, and Syiians (Damascus) were in the Orient 
described, respectively, as golden, silver, bronze, and iron races, and that this 
description w'as utilized in Egypt for purposes of political piopaganda (cp. 
also Daniel, 11 31-45) ; and he suggests that the story of these four races w^as 
brought to Greece m Hesiod’s time by the Phoenicians (as might be expected), 
and that Plato alludes to this fact.* 

The passage is from the Republic, 546a, ff. j cp. text to notes 36-40 to 
chapter 5. The intermixture of classes is clearly forbidden in 434c also ; 
cp. notes 27 (3), 31 and 34 to chapter 4, and note 40 to chapter 6. 

The passage from the Laws (ggod-e) contains the principle that the child 
of a mixed marriage inherits the caste of his lesser parent. 

Republic, 547a. (For the mixture theory of heredity, see also text to 
note 39/40 to chapter 5, especially 40 (2), and to notes 39-43, and 52, to 
the present chapter ) 

CHAPTER 8 /notes I4“23 


Op. ciL, 415c. 

15 Cp. Adames note to Republic^ 414^? italics mine. The great exception 
is Grote W the Other Companions of Socrates^ London, 1875, 240), 

who sums up the spirit of the Republic^ and its opposition to that of the Apology : 
‘ In the . . Apology, we find Socrates confessing his own ignorance. . . But 
the Republic presents him in a new character. . . He is himself on the 
throne of King Nomos : the infallible authority, temporal as well as spiritual, 
from which all public sentiment emanates, and by whom orthodoxy is 
determined. . . He now expects every individual to fall into the place, and 
contract the opinions, prescribed by authority ; including among these opinions 
deliberate ethical and political fictions such as about the . , earthborn men. . . 
Neither the Socrates of the Apology, nor his negative Dialectic, could be 
allowed to exist in the Platonic Republic.* (Italics mine ; see also Grote, 
op. cit., p. 188.) 

The doctrine that religion is opium for the people, although not in this particular 
formulation, turns out to be one of the tenets of Plato and the Platonists. 
(Gp. also note 17 and text, and especially note 18 to this chapter.) It is, 
apparently, one of the more esoteric doctrines of the school, i.e. it may be 
discussed only by sufficiently elderly members (cp note 18 to chapter 7) of 
the upper class. But those who let the cat out of the bag are prosecuted for 
atheism by the idealists. 

15 For instance Adam, Barker, Field. 

1’ Cp. Diels, Vorsokratiker 5 , Critias fragm. 25. (I have picked about eleven 
characteristic lines out of more than forty.) — It may be remarked that the 
passage commences with a sketch of the social contract (which even some- 
what resembles Lycophron’s equalitarianism ; cp. note 45 to chapter 6). 
On Critias, cp especially note 48 to chapter 10. Since* Burnet has suggested 
that the poetic and dramatic fragments known under the name of Critias 
should be attributed to the grandfather of the leader of the Thirty, it should 
be noted that Plato attributes to the latter poetic gifts in the Charmides, 1570 ; 
and in i62d, he alludes even to the fact that Critias was a dramatist. (Cp. 
also Xenophon’s Memorabilia, I, iv, 18.) 

IS Cp. the Laws, goge. It seems that Critias’ view later even became part 
of the Platonic school tradition, as indicated by the following passage from 
Aristotle’s Metaphysics (107483) which at the same time provides another 
example of the use of the term ‘ persuasion ’ for * propaganda ’ (cp. notes 5 and 
10 to this chapter). ‘The rest . , has been added in the form of a myth, with 
a view to the persuasion of the mob, and to legal and general (political) 
expediency . .’ Cp. also Plato’s attempt in the Statesman, 271a, f., to argue 
in favour of the truth of a myth in which he certainly did not believe. (See 
notes 9 and 15 to this chapter.) 

Laws, 908b. 

25 Op. ciL, goga. 

21 For the conflict between good and evil, see op, ciL, 904-906. See 
especially 906a /b (justice versus injustice; ‘justice’ means here, still, the 
collectivist justice of the Republic). Immediately preceding is 903c, a passage 
quoted above in the text to note 35 to chapter 5 and to note 27 to chapter 6. 
See also note 32 to the present chapter. 

22 Op. ciL, 905 d- 907 b. 

22 The paragraph to which this note is appended indicates my adherence 
to an ‘ absolutist ’ theory of truth which is in accordance with the common 
idea that a statement is true if (and only if) it agrees with the facts it describes. 
This ‘ absolute ’ or ‘ correspondence theory of truth * (which goes back to 
Aristotle) was first clearly developed by A. Tarski (Der Wahrheitsbegrijf in den 
formalisurten Sprachen, Polish ed. 1933, German translation 1936), and is the 
basis of a theory of logic called by him Semantics (cp. note 29 to chapter 3 

274 CHAPTER 8/NOTES 24-32 

and note 5 (2) to chapter 5) ; see also R. Carnap’s Introduction to Semantics^ 
1942, which develops the theory of truth in detail. I am quoting from p 28 : 
‘ It is especially to be noticed that the concept of truth in the sense just explained 
— ^we may call it the semantical concept of truth — ^is fundamentally different 
from concepts like “ believed ”, verified ”, “ highly confirmed ”, etc.’ — 
A similar, though undeveloped view can be found in my Logik der Forsckung, 
(translated, 1 959, as The Logic of Scientific Discovery) , section 84 , this was written 
before I became acquainted with Tarski's Semantics, w^hich is the reason why 
my theory is only rudimentary'' The pragmatist theory of truth (which derives 
from Hegelianism) was criticized by Bertrand Russell from the point of view 
of an absolutist theory of truth as early as 1907 ; and recently he has shown 
the connection between a relativist theory of truth and the creed of fascism. 
See Russell, Let the People Thinks pp. 77, 79. 

Especially Rep , 4740-5020. The following quotaiion is Rep.^ 475^. 

For the seven quotations which follow, in this paragraph, see : (i) and 
(2), Republic, 476b ; (3), (4), (5), op, ciU^ 50od-e ; (6) and (7) : op, ciL, 
50ia/b ; with (7), cp. also the parallel passage, op- cit,, 484c. See, furthermore. 
Sophist, 253d/e; Laws, 964a-966a (esp. 9658/0). 

Gp. op, ciL, 50 1 c. 

Cp. especially Republic, 509a, f. — See 509b : ‘ The sun induces the 
sensible things to generate ’ (although he is not himself involved in the process 
of generation) ; similarly, ‘ you may say of the objects of rational knowledge 
that not only do they owe it to the Good that they can be known, but their 
reality and even their essence flows from it ; although the Good is not itself 
an essence but transcends even essences in dignity and powder.’ (With 509b, 
cp, Aristotle, De Gen, et Corr., 336a 15, 31, and Phys,, 194b 13.) — In 510b, 
the Good is described as the absolute origin (not merely postulated or assumed),* 
and in 511b, it is described as ‘the first origin of everything*. 

Cp. especially Republic, 508b, ff. — See 508b /c : ‘ What the Good has 
begotten in its own likeness * (viz. truth) ‘ is the link, in the intelligible world 
between reason and its objects ’ (i.e. the Ideas) ‘ in the same way as, in the 
visible world, that thing ’ (viz. light which is the offspring of the sun) ‘ which 
is the link between sight and its objects ’ (i.e. sensible things). 

29 Cp. op, cit,, 505a ; 534b, ff. 

2° Cp. op, at,, 5058. 

2^ Philebus, 66a. 

Republic, 5068, ff., and 509-51 1. 

The definition of the Good, here quoted, as ‘ the class of the determinate 
(or finite, or limited) conceived as a unity ’ is, I believe, not so hard to 
understand, and is in full agreement wuth others of Plato’s remarks. The 
‘ class of the determinate ’ is the class of the Forms or Ideas, conceived as male 
principles, or progenitors, as opposed to the female, unlimited or indeterminate 
space (cp. note 15 (2) to chapter 3). These Forms or primogenitors are, of 
course, good, in so far as they are ancient and unchanging originals, and in 
so far as each of them is one as opposed to the many sensible things which it 
generates. If we conceive the class or race of the progenitors as many, then 
they are not absolutely good ; thus the absolute Good can be visualized if we 
conceive them as a unity, as One — as the One primogenitor. (Cp. also 
Arist., Met., 988a 10.) 

Plato’s Idea of the Good is practically empty. It gives us no indication 
of what is good, in a moral sense, i.e. what we ought to do. As can be seen 
especially from notes 27 and 28 to this chapter, all we hear is that the Good 
is highest in the realm of Form or Ideas, a kind of super-idea, from which 
the Ideas originate, and receive their existence. All we could possibly derive 
from this is that the Good is unchangeable and prior or primary and therefore 
ancient (cp. note 3 to chapter 4), and One Whole ; and, therefore, that 

CHAPTER 8/NOTES 33-37 2 75 

those things participate in it which do not change, i.e., the good is what 
preserves (cp. notes i2 and 3 to chapter 4), and what is ancient, especially 
the ancient laws (cp. -note 23 to chapter 4, note 7, paragraph on Platonism, 
to chapter 5, and note 18 to chapter 7), and that holism is good (cp. note 21 
to the present chapter) ; i.e., we are again thrown back, in practice, to 
totalitarian morality (cp. text to notes 40/41 to chapter 6). 

If the Seventh Letter is genuine, then we have there (3i4b/c) another 
statement by Plato that his doctrine of the Good cannot be formulated ; for 
he says of this doctrine : * It is not capable of expression like other branches 
of study.’ (Cp. also note 57 to chapter 10.) 

It is again Gfote who clearly saw and criticized the emptiness of the 
Platonic Idea or Form of Good. After asking what this Good is, he says 
{Plato, III, 241 f.) : ‘ This question is put . . But unfortunately it remains 
unanswered. - . In describing the condition of other men’s minds— that 
they divine a Real Good . . do everything in order to obtain it, but puzzle 
themselves in vain to grasp and determine what it is — he (Plato) ‘ has 
unconsciously described the condition of his own/ It is surprising to see how 
few modern writers have taken any notice of Grote’s excellent criticism of 

For the quotations in the next paragraph of the text, see (i) : Republic, 
50ob--c ; (2) : op. cit., 485a/b. This second passage is very interesting. It 
is, as Adam reaiErms (note to 485b9),the first passage in which * generation * 
and ‘degeneration * are employed in this half-technical sense. It refers to the 
flux, and to Parmenides’ changeless entities. And it introduces the main 
argument in favour of the rule of the philosophers. See also note 26 (i) to 
chapter 3 and note q (2) to chapter 4. In the Laws, GSgc-d, when discussing 
the ‘ degeneration * (688c) of the Dorian kingdom brought about by the ‘ worst 
ignorance ’ (the ignorance, namely, of not knowing how to obey those who 
are rulers by nature ; see 689b), Plato explains what he means by wisdom : 
only such wisdom as aims at the greatest unity or ‘ unisonity ’ entitles a man 
to authority. And the term ‘unisonity’ is explained in the Republic, 591b 
and d, as the harmony of the ideas of justice (i.e. of keeping one’s place) and 
of temperance (of being satisfied with it). Thus we are again thrown back 
to our starting point. 

* A critic of tliis passage asserted that he could find no trace, in Plato, 
of any fear of independent thought. But we should remember Plato’s insist- 
ence on censorship (see notes 40 and 41 to chapter 4) and his prohibition of 
higher dialectical studies for anybody under 50 years of age in the Republic 
(see notes 19 to 21 to chapter *]), to say nothing of the Laws (see note 18 to 
chapter 7, and many other passages).* 

For the problem of the priest caste, see the Timaeus, 24a. In a passage 
which clearly alludes to the best or ‘ ancient ’ state of the Republic, the priest 
caste takes the place of the ‘ philosophic race ’ of the Republic. Cp. also the 
attacks on priests (and even on Egyptian priests), divineis,and shamans, in the 
Statesman, 290c, f. ; see also note 57 (2) to chapter 8, and note 29 to chapter 4. 

The remark of Adam’s, quoted in the text in the paragiaph after the 
next, is from his note to Republic, 547a3 (quoted above in text to note 43 to 
chapter 5). 

Cp. for instance Repuflk, 484c, 50oe, ff. 

Republic, 535a/b. All that Adam says (cp. his note to 535b8) about the 
term which I have translated by ‘ awe-inspiring ’ supports the usual view 
that the term means ‘ stern ’ or ‘ awful especially m the sense of ‘ inspiring 
terror *. Adam’s suggestion that we translate ‘ masculine ’ or ‘ virile * follows 
the general tendency to tone dowm what Plato says, and it clashes strangely 
with Theaeietus 149a. Lindsay translates : ‘ of . . sturdy morals 

Op. cit, 540C ; see also 50oc-d : ‘ the philosopher himself . . becomes 

276 CHAPTER 8/NOTES 38-46 

godlike^ and note 12 to chapter 9, where 540c, £, is quoted more fully. — 
It is most interesting to note how Plato transforms the Parmenidian One 
* when arguing in favour of an aristocratic hierarchy. The opposition one 
— many is not preserved, but gives rise to a system of grades : the one 
Idea — the few who come close to it — the more who are their helpers — 
the many, i.e. the mob (this division is fundamental in the Statesman). As 
opposed to this, Antisthenes’ monotheism preserves the original Eleatic 
opposition between the One (God) and the Many (whom he probable 
considered as brothers because of their equal distance from God). — Antisthenes 
was influenced by Parmenides through Zeno’s influence upon Gorgias. Probably 
there was also the influence of Democritus, who had taught : ‘ The wise may 
belongs to all countries alike, for the home of a great soul is the whole world.* 

Republic^ 50od. 

The quotations are from RepuhliCi 459b, and ff. ; cp. also notes 34 f. to 
chapter 4, and especially 40 (2) to chapter 5. Cp. also the three similes of 
the Statesman^ where the ruler is compared with (i) the shepherd, (2) the 
doctor, (3) the weaver whose functions are explained as those of a man who 
blends characters by skilful breeding (310b, f.). 

Op. dt., 460a. My statement that Plato considers this law very important 
is based on the fact that Plato mentions it in the outline of the Republic in the 
Timaeus, i8d/e. 

Op cit , 460b. The ‘ suggestion is taken up * in 468c , see the n^s:t note. 

Op cit , 468c. Though It has been denied by my critics, my translation 
is correct, and so is my remark about ‘ the latter benefit *. Shorey calls the 
passage ‘ deplorable ’. 

For the Story of the Number and the Fall, cp. notes 1 3 and 52 to this 
chapter, notes 39/40 to chapter 5, and text. 

Republic, 473c-e. Note the opposition between (divine) rest, and the 
eml, i.e. change in the form of corruption, or degeneration. Concerning the 
term translated here by * oligarchs * cp. the end of note 57, below. It is 
equivalent to ‘ hereditary aristocrats *. 

The phrase which, for stylistic reasons, I have put in brackets, is important, 
for in it Plato demands the suppression of all ‘ pure ’ philosophers (and unphilosophical 
politicians). A more literal translation of the phrase would be this : ‘ while 
the many ’ (who have) ‘ natures ’ (disposed or gifted) ‘ for drifting along, 
nowadays, in one alone of these two, are eliminated by force Adam admits 
that the meaning of Plato’s phrase is * that Plato refuses to sanction the exclusive 
pursuit of knowledge * ; but his suggestion that we soften the meaning of 
the last words of the phrase by translating : ‘ are forcibly debarred from 
exclusitely pursuing either ’ (italics his ; cp. note to 473d24,vol I, 330, of his 
ed. of the Republic) has no foundation in the original, — only in his tendency 
to idealize Plato. The same holds for Lindsay’s translation (' are forcibly 
debarred from this behaviour ’). — Whom Plato wish to suppress ? I 

believe that * the many * whose limited or incomplete talents or ‘ natures * 
Plato condemns here are identical (as far as philosophers are concerned) 
with the ‘ many whose natures are incomplete mentioned in Republic, 495d ; 
and also with the ‘ many * (professed philosophers) ‘ whose wxckedness is 
inevitable ’, mentioned in 4896 (cp. also 49oe/49ia) ; cp. notes 47, 56, and 59 
to this chapter (and note 23 to chapter 5). The attack is, therefoie, directed 
on the one hand against the ‘ uneducated * democratic politicians, on the 
other hand most probably mainly against the half-Thracian Antisthenes, the 
‘ uneducated bastard ’, the equalitarian philosopher ; cp. note 47, below. 

Kant, On Eteinal Peace, Second Supplement {Werke, ed. Cassirer, 1914, 
vol. VI, 456). Italics mine, I have also abbreiiated the passage. (The 
‘ possession of power * may well allude to Frederick the Great ) 

Gp. for instance Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, V, 12, 2 (German ed.. 

CHAPTER 8/NOTE 47 277 

voi. II “5 382) ; or Lindsay’s translation of the Republic, (For a criticism of 
this inteipretation, cp. note 50, below ) 

^7 It must be admitted that Plato’s attitude towards Antisthenes raises a 
highly speculative problem ; this is of course connected with the fact that 
very little is known about Antisthenes from first-rate sources. Even the old 
Stoic tradition that the Cynic school or movement can be traced bark to 
Antisthenes is at present often questioned (cp , for instance, G. G. Field’s 
Plato, 1930, or D. R. Dudley, A Hutory of Cymcism, 1937) although perhaps 
not on quite sufficient grounds (cp. Fritz’s review of the last-mentioned book 
in Mind, voL 47, p. 390) . In view of what we know, especially from Aristotle, 
about Antisthenes, it appears to me highly probable that there are many 
allusions to him in Plato’s writings ; and even the one fact that Antisthenes 
was, apart from Plato, the only member of Socrates’ inner circle who taught 
philosophy at Athens, would be a sufficient justification for searching Plato’s 
work for such allusions. Now it seems to me rather probable that a series of 
attacks in Plato’s work first pointed out byDuemmler (especially i2^/>.,495d/e, 
mentioned below in note 56 to .this chapter ; Rep., 5350, f.. Soph., 25ib-'e) 
represents these allusions. There is a definite resemblance (or so at least it 
appears to me) between these passages and Aristotle’s scornful attacks on 
Antisthenes. Aristotle, who mentions Antisthenes’ name, speaks of him as of 
a simpleton, and he speaks of ‘ uneducated people such as the Antistheneans ’ 
(cp. note 54 to chapter ii). Plato, in the passages mentioned, speaks in a 
similar way, but more sharply. The first passage I have in mind is from 
the Sophist, 251b, f., which corresponds very closely indeed to Aristotle’s first 
passage. Regarding the two passages from the Republic, we must remember 
that, according to the tradition, Antisthenes was a ‘ bastard ’ (his mother 
came from barbarian Thrace), and that he taught in the Athenian gymnasium 
reserved for ‘ bastards ’. Now we find, in Republic, 535e, f. (cp. end of note 
52 to this chapter), an attack which is so specific that an individual person 
must be intended. Plato speaks of ‘ people who dabble in philosophy without 
being restrained by a feeling of their own unworthiness’, and he contends that 
* the baseborn should be debarred ’ from doing so. He speaks of the people 
as ‘ unbalanced ’ (or ‘ skew ’ or ‘ limping ’) in their love of work and of 
relaxation ; and becoming more personal, he alludes to somebody with a 
‘ crippled soul ’ who, though he loves truth (as a Socratic would) , does not 
attain it, since he ‘ wallows m ignorance ’ (probably because he does not accept 
the theory of Forms) ; and he warns the city not to trust such limping ‘ bas- 
tards I think it likely that Antisthenes is the object of this undoubtedly 
personal attack ; the admission that the enemy loves truth seems to me an 
especially strong argument, occurring as it does in an attack of extreme vio- 
lence. But if this passage refers to Antisthenes, then it is very likely that a very 
similar passage refers to him also, viz. Republic, 495d/e, where Plato again 
describes his victim as possessing a disfigured or crippled soul as well as body. 
He insists in this passage that the object of his contempt, in spite of aspiring 
to be a philosopher, is so depraved that he is not even ashamed of doing 
degrading (‘ banausic ’ ; cp. note 4 to chapter ii) manual labour. Now wc 
know of Antisthenes that he recommended manual labour, which he held in 
high esteem (for Socrates’ attitude, cp. Xenophon, Mem , II, 7, 10), and that 
he practised what he taught ; a further strong argument that the man with 
the crippled soul is Antisthenes. 

Now in the same passage, Republic, 495d, there is also a remark about 
‘ the many whose natures are incomplete and who nevertheless aspire to 
phOosophy. This seems to refer to the same group (the ‘ Antistheneans ’ of 
Aristotle) of ‘ many natures ’ whose suppression is demanded in Republic, 
473c-e, discussed in note 44 to this chapter. — Cp. also Republic, 489e, mentioned 
in notes 59 and 56 to this chapter. 

O.S.I.E. — ^VOL. I K 

278 CHAPTER 8/NOTE 48 

We know (from Cicero, De Natura Deorum^ and Philodemus, De Pietate) 
that Antisthenes was a monotheist ; and the form m which he expressed his 
monotheism (there is only One God ‘ according to nature i.e., to truth, 
although there are many ‘ according to convention ’) shows that he had in 
mind the opposition nature — convention which, in the mind of a former member 
of the school of Gorgias and contemporary of Alcidamas and Lycophron 
(cp. note 13 to chapter 5), must have been connected with equaliiananism. 

This in itself does not of course establish the conclusion that the half- 
barbanan Antisthenes believed in the brotherhood of Greeks and barbarians. 
Yet it seems to me extremely likely that he did. 

W. W Tarn {Alexander the Great and the Unity of Mankind ; cp. note 13 (2) 
to chapter 5) has tried to show — I once thought successfully — that the idea of 
the unity of mankind can be traced back at least to Alexander the Great. I 
think that by a very similar line of reasoning, we can trace it back farther ; to 
Diogenes, Antisthenes, and even to Socrates and the ‘ Great Generation ’ of the 
Periclean age (cp. note 27 to chapter 10, and text). This seems, even without 
considei mg the more detailed evidence, likely enough ; for a cosmopolitan idea 
can be expected to occur as a corollai'y of such imperialist tendencies as those of 
the Penclean age (cp. Rep.^ 494c /d, mentioned in note 50 (5) to this chapter, 
and the First Alcibiades, 105b, If. ; see also text to notes 9-22, 36 and 47 to 
chapter 10). This is especially likely if other equalitarian tendencies exist. I do not 
intend to belittle the significance of Alexander’s deeds, but the ideas ascribed 
to him by Tam seem to me, in a way, a renaissance of some of the best ideas of 
fifth-century Athenian imperialism. See also Addendum Ilf below, pp. 329 f. 

Proceeding to details, I may first say that there is strong evidence that 
at least m Plato’s (and Aristotle’s) time, the problem of cqualitarianism 
was clearly seen to be concerned with two fully analogous distinctions, that 
between Greeks and barbarians on the one side and that between masters {or 
free men) and slaves on the other ; cp. w^ith this note 13 to chapter 5, Now we 
have very strong evidence that the fifth-century Athenian movement against 
slavery was not confined to a few intellectuahsts like Euripides, Alcidamas, 
L\cophmn, Antiphon, Hippias, etc., but that it had considerable practical 
success. This evidence is contained in the unanimous reports of the enemies 
of Athenian democracy (especially the ‘ Old Oligarch Plato, Aristotle ; cp. 
notes 17, 18 and 29 to chapter 4, and 36 to chapter 10). 

If we now consider in this light the admittedly scanty available evidence 
for the existence of cosmopolitism^ it appears, I believe, reasonably strong — pro- 
vided that lie include the attacks of the enemies of this movement among the evidence In 
other words, we must make full use of the attacks of the Old Oligarch, of 
Plato, and of Aristotle against the humanitarian movement, if we wish to 
assess its real significance. Thus the Old Oligarch (2, 7) attacks Athens 
for an eclectic cosmopolitan way of life Plato’s attacks on cosmopolitan 
and similar tendencies, although not frequent, are especially valuable. (I 
have in rnind passages like Rep,, ^62e/^6^2i — ‘ citizens, resident aliens, and 
strangers from abroad, are all on a footing of equality ’ — passage which 
should be compared with the ironical description in Menexenus, 245c~d, in 
which Plato sarcastically eulogizes Athens for its consistent hatred of bar- 
barians ; Rep., 494c/d ; of course, the passage Rep, 469b-47ic, must be 
considered in this context too. See also end of note 19 to chapter 6.) 
'Whether or not Tarn is right on Alexanaer, he hardly does full justice 
to the various extant statements of this fifth-century movement, for instance 
to Antiphon (cp. p. 149, note 6 of his paper) or Euripides or Hippias, 
or Democritus (cp. note 29 to chapter 10). or to Diogenes (p. 150, note 12) 
and Antisthenes. I do not think that Antiphon wanted only to stress the 
biological kinship between men, for he was undoubtedly a social reformer ; 
and ' by nature ’ meant to him ‘ in truth *• It therefore seems to me practically 

CHAPTER 8/NOTES 49-50 279 

certain that he attacked the distinction between Greeks and barbarians as 
being fictitious. Tarn comments on Euripides’ fragment which states that a 
nobie man can range the world like an eagle the air by remarking that ‘ he 
knew that an eagle has a permanent home-rock ’ ; but this remark does not 
do full justice to the fragment ; for in order to be a cosmopolitan, one need 
not give up one’s permanent home. In the light of all this, I do not see why 
Diogenes* meaning was purely ‘negative’ when he replied to the question 
‘ where are you from ? ’ by saying that he was a cosmopolite, a citizen of the 
whole world ; especially if we consider that a similar answ^er (‘ I am a man of 
the world ’) is reported of Socrates, and another (‘ The wise man belongs to 
all countries, for the home of a great soul is the whole world ’ ; cp. Diels 
fr. 247 ; genuineness questioned by Tarn and Diels) of Democritus. 

Antisthenes* monotheism also must be considered in the light of this 
evidence. There is no doubt that this monotheism was not of the Jewish, 
i.e. tribal and exclusive, type. (Should the story of Diog. Laert., VI, 13, that 
Antisthenes taught in the Gynosarges, the gymnasium for ‘ bastards be true, 
then he must have deliberately emphasized his own mixed and barbarian 
descent.) Tarn is certainly right when he points out (p. 145) that Alexander’s 
monotheism was connected with his idea of die unity of mankind. But the 
same should be said of the Cynic ideas, which were influenced, as I believe 
(see the last note), by Antisthenes, and in this way by Socrates. (Gp. especially 
the evidence of Cicero, Tuscul, V., 37, and of Epictetus, I, 9, i, with D.L., 
VI, 2, 63-71 ; also 492 e, with D.Z., VI, 105. See also Epictetus, III, 

22 and 24.) 

All this made it once appear to me not too unlikely that Alexander may 
have been genuinely inspired, as the tradition reports, by Diogenes’ ideas ; and 
thus by the equaiitarian tradition. But m view of E. Badian’s criticism of Tarn 
{Histona, 7, 1958, pp. 425 flf.) I feel now inclined to reject Tarn’s claim ; but 
not, of course, my views on the fifth-century movement 

Cp. Republic^ 4696-4710, especially 47ob-d, and 4696/0. Here indeed 
we have (cp. the next note) a trace of something like the introduction of a new 
ethical whole, more embracing than the city ; namely the unity of Hellenic 
superiority. As was to be expected (see the next note (i) {b)), Plato elaborates 
the point in some detail. * (Cornford justly summarizes this passage when 
he says that Plato * expresses no humanitarian sympathies extending beyond 
the borders of Hellas’ ; cp. The Republic of Plato ^ 1941, p. 165.)* 

In this note, further arguments are collected bearing on the interpreta- 
tion of Republic, 4730, and the problem of Platons humanitananism, I wish to 
express my thanks to my colleague. Prof. H, D. Broadhead, whose criticism has 
greatly helped me to complete and clarify my argument. 

(i) One of Plato’s standard topics (cp. the methodological remarks, 
Rep.y 3680, 445c, 577c, and note 32 to chapter 5) is the opposition and com- 
parison between the individual and the whole, i.e. the city. The introduction 
of a new whole, even more comprehensive than the city, viz. mankind, would 
be a most important step for a holist to take ; it would need (a) preparation 
and {b) elaboration, (a) Instead of such a preparation we get the above 
mentioned passage on the opposition between Greeks and barbarians {Rep,y 
4696-4710). {b) Instead of an elaboration, we find, if anything, a withdrawal 

of the ambiguous expression ‘ race of men ’. First, in the immediate con- 
tinuation of the key-passage under consideration, i.e. of the passage of the 
philosopher king {Republic, 473 <i/^)> there occurs a paraphrase of the question- 
able expression, in form of a summary or winding up of the whole speech ; and 
t]^ paraphrase, Plato’s standard opposition, city — individual, replaces that of 
dty — human race. The paraphrase reads : * No other constitution can establish 
a state of happin^s, neither in private affairs nor in those of the city.’ Secondly, 
a similar result is found if we analyse the six repetitions or variations (viz. 

28 o chapter 8 /note 50 

4870, 499b, 5000, 50 1 e, 536a~b, discussed in note 52 below, and the summary 
54od/e with the afterthought 541b) of the key-passage under consideration 
(i.e. of Rep.^ 473d/e), In two of them (4876, 5000) the city alone is 
mentioned"; in all the others, Plato's . standard opposition city — individual 
again replaces that of city — human race. Nowhere is there a further allusion 
to the allegedly Platonic idea that sophocracy alone can save, not only the 
suffering citieSi but all suffering mankind — In view of ail this it seems clear 
that in all these places only his standard opposition lingered in Plato's mind 
(without, however, the wish to give it any prominence in this connection), 
probably in the sense that sophocracy alone can attain the stability and the 
happiness — the divine rest — of any state, as well as that of all its individual 
citizens and their progeny (in which otherwise evil must grow — the evil of 

(2) The term ‘ human ’ (‘ anthropinos ’) is used by Plato, as a rule, either 
in opposition to ‘ divine ’ (and, accordingly, sometimes in a slightly disparag- 
ing sense, especially if the limitations of human knowledge or human art are 
to be stressed, cp. Timaeus, Qgc/d ; 77a, or Sophist, 266c, 268d, or Laws, 
69 1 e, f., 854a), or in a zoological sense, in opposition, or with reference to, 
animals, for example, eagles. Nowhere except in the early Socratic dialogues 
(for one further exception, see this note under (6), below) do I find this term 
(or the term ‘ man ') used in a humanitarian sense, i.e. indicating something 
that transcends the distinction of nation, race, or class. Even a * mental ’ 
use of the term ‘ human ' is rare. (I have in mind a use such as in Laws, 
737b : * a humanly impossible piece of folly ’.) In fact, the extreme national- 
ist views of Fichte and Spengler, quoted in chapter 12, text to note 79, are 
a pointed expression of the Platonic usage of the term ‘ human as signifying 
a zoological rather than a moral category. A number of Platonic passages 
indicating this and similar usages may be given : Republic, 3658 ; 486a ; 
459b /c ; 5 14b ; 522c ; 6o6e, f. (where Homer as a guide to human affairs 
is opposed to the composer of hymns to the gods) ; 620b. — Phaedo, 82b. — 
Cratyhis, 392b — Parmenides, I34e. — Theaetetus, 107b. — Cnto, 460. — Protagoras, 
344c. — Statesman, 2748 (the shepherd of the human flock who is a god, not a 
man) — Laws 673d ; 688d ; 737b (890b is perhaps another example of a 
disparaging use — ‘ the men ’ seems here nearly equivalent with * the many '). 

(3) It is of course true that Plato assumes a Form or Idea of Man ; but 
it is a mistake to think that it represents what all men have in common ; 
rather, it is an aristocratic ideal of a proud super-Greek ; and on this is based 
a belief, not in the brotherhood of men, but in a hierarchy of ‘ natures 
aristocratic or slavish, m accordance with their greater or lesser likeness to 
the original, the ancient primogenitor of the human race. (The Greeks are 
more like him than any other race.) Thus ‘ intelligence is shared by the gods 
with only a very few men ’ {Tim , 5ie ; cp. Aristotle, in the text to note 3, 
chapter ii). 

(4) The ‘ City in Heaven ’ {Rep , 59Qb) and its citizens are, as Adam 
rightly points out. not Greek ; but this does not imply that they belong to 
‘ humanity ’ as he thinks (noie to 470030, and others) ; they are rather super- 
exclusive, super-Greek (they are ‘ above ’ the Greek city of 47oe, ff ) — more 
remote from the barbarians than ever. (This remark does not imply that 
the idea of the City in Heaven — as those of the Lion in Heaven, for example, 
and of other constellations — ^may not have been of oriental origin.) 

(5) Finally, it may be mentioned that the passage 499c/d rescinds the 
distinction between Greeks and barbarians no more than that between the 
past, the present, and the future : Plato tries here to give drastic expression 
to a sweeping generalization in regard to time and space ; he wishes to say 
no more than : * If at any time whatever, or if at any place whatever ’ 
(we may add : even in such an extremely unlikely place as a barbarian 

CHAPTER 8/NOTES 5I-52 28 1 

country) ‘such a thing did happen, then. . The remark, 4940/8, 
expresses a similar, though stronger, feeling of being faced with something 
approaching impious absurdity, a feeling here aroused by Alcibiades’ hopes 
for a universal empire of Greeks and foreigners. (I agree with the views 
expressed by Field, Plato and His Contemporaries^ 130, note i, and by Tarn ; 
cp note 13 (2) to chapter 5.) 

To sum up, I am unable to find anything but hostility towards the 
humanitarian idea of a unity of mankind which transcends race and class, 
and I believe that those who find the opposite idealize Plato (cp. note 3 to 
chapter 6, and text) and fail to see the link between his aristocratic and anti- 
humanitarian exclusiveness and his theory of Ideas. See also this chapter, 
notes 51, 52, and 57, below. 

* (6) There is, to my knowledge, only one real exception, one passage 
which stands in flagrant contrast to all this. In a passage ( Theaetetus^ 1 740, £), 
designed to illustrate the broad-mindedness and the universalistic outlook of 
the philosopher, we read : ‘ Every man has had countless ancestors, and 
among them are in any case rich and poor, kings and slaves, barbarians and 
Greeks.’ I do not know how to reconcile this interesting and definitely 
humanitarian passage — its emphasis on the parallelism master v, slave and 
Greek v. barbarian is reminiscent of all those theories which Plato opposes — 
with Plato’s other views. Perhaps it is, like so much m the Gorgias, Socratic ; 
and the Theaeietus is perhaps (as against the usual assumption) earlier than 
the Republic See also my Addendum II p. 320 below.* 

The allusion is, I believe, to two places in the Story of the Number 
where Plato (by speaking of ‘ your race ’) refers to the race of men : ‘ con- 
cerning your own race ’ (546a /b ; cp. note 39 to chapter 5, and text) and 
‘ testing the metals within your races ’ (546d/e, f. ; cp. notes 39 and 40 to 
chapter 5, and the next passage), Cp. also the arguments in note 52 to 
this chapter, concerning a ‘ bridge ’ between the two passages, i.e. the key 
passage of the philosopher king, and the Story of the Number. 

52 Republic, 546d/e, f. The passage quoted here is part of the Story of the 
Number and the Fall of Man, 546a-547a, quoted in text to notes 39/40 to 
chapter 5 ; see also notes 13 and 43 to the present chapter. — My contention 
(cp. text to the last note) that^the remark in the key-passage of the philosopher 
king. Republic, 4730 (cp. notes 44 and 50 to this chapter), foreshadows the Story 
of the Number, is strengthened by the observation that there exists a bridge, as 
it were, between the two passages. The Story of the Number is undoubtedly 
foreshadowed by Republic, 536a/b, a passage which, on the other hand, may 
be described as the converse (and so as a variation) of the philosopher king 
passage ; for it says in effect that the worst must happen if the wrong men 
are selected as rulers, and it even finishes up with a direct reminiscence of 
the great wave : ‘ if we take men of another kind . . then we shall bring 
down upon philosophy another deluge of laughter ’. This clear reminiscence 
IS, I believe, an indication that Plato was conscious of the character of the 
passage (which proceeds, as it were, from the end of 4730-6 back to its begin- 
ning), which shows what must happen if the advice given in the passage 
of the philosopher king is neglected. Now this ‘ converse * passage (ssSa/b) 
may be described as a bridge between the ‘ key passage ’ (4730) and the 
Number-passage (546a, ff.) ; for it contains unambiguous references to 
racialism, foreshadowing the passage (5468, f.) on the same subject to which 
the present note is appended. (This may be interpreted as additional evidence 
that racialism was in Plato’s mind, and alluded to, when he wrote the passage 
01 the philosopher king.) I now quote the beginning of the ‘ converse’ 
passage (ss^a/b) : ‘ We must distinguish carefully between the true-born 
and the bastard. For if an individual or a city does not know how to look 
upon matters such as these, they will quite innocently accept the services 

282 CHAPTER 8/NOTES 53-57 

of the unbalanced (or limping) bastards in any capacity ; perhaps as friends, 
or even as rulers.’ (Gp. also note 47 to this chapter.) 

For something like an explanation of Plato’s preoccupation with matters 
of racial degeneration and racial breeding, see text to notes 6, 7, and 63 to 
chapter 10, in connection with note 39 (3) and 40 (2) to chapter 5. 

* For the passage about Godrus the martyr, quoted in the next paragraph 
of the text, see the Symposium, 2o8d, quoted more fully in note 4 to chapter 3. — 
R. Eisler {Caucasica, 5, 1928, p. 129, note 237) asserts that ‘ Godrus ’ is a 
pre-Hellenic word for ‘ king This would give some further colour to the 
tradition that Athens’ nobility was autochthonous. (See note 1 1 (2) to this 
chapter ; 52 to chapter 8 ; and Republic 368a and 580b /c.) ^ 

53 A. E. Taylor, Plato (1908, 1914), p. 122 f. I agree with this interesting 
passage as far as it is quoted in the text. I have, however, omitted the word 
‘ patriot ’ after ‘ Athenian ’ since I do not fully agree with this characterization 
of Plato in the sense in which it is used by Taylor. For Plato’s * patriotism * 
cp. text to notes 14-18 to chapter 4. For the term ‘ patriotism and the 
* paternal state ’, cp. notes 23-26 and 45 to chapter 10. 

54 Republic, 494b : ‘ But will not one who is of this type be first in every- 
thing, from childhood on ? ’ 

55 Op. cit., 496c ; ‘ Of my own spiritual sign, I need not speak.’ 

55 Gp. what Adam says in his ed. of the Republic, notes to 495623 and 
495631, and my note 47 to the present chapter. (See also note 59 to this 

5 ’ Republic, 4960-6 ; cp. the Seventh Letter, 3256. (I do not think that 
Barker, Greek Political Theory, I, 107, n. 2, makes a good guess when he says 
of the passage quoted that ‘ it is possible , . that Plato is thinking of the 
Gynics ’. The passage certainly does not refer to Antisthenes ; and Diogenes, 
whom Barker must have in mind, was hardly famous when it was written, 
quite apart from the fact that Plato would not have referred to him in this 

(i) Earlier in the same passage of the Republic, there is another remark 
which may be a reference to Plato himself. Speaking of the small band of the 
worthy and those who belong to it, he mentions * a nobly-born and well-bred 
character who was saved by flight ’ (or ‘ by ex^ie ’ ; saved, that is, from the 
fate of Alcibiades, who became a victim of flattery and deserted Socratic 
philosophy). Adam thinks (note to 496b9) that ‘ Plato was hardly exiled 
but the flight to Megara of Socrates’ disciples after the death of their master 
may well stand out in Plato’s memory as one of the turning-points of his life. 
That the passage refers to Dio is hardly possible since Dio was about 40 when 
he went into exile, and therefore well beyond the critical youthful age ; and 
there was not (as in Plato’s case) a parallelism with the Socratic companion 
Alcibiades (quite apart from the fact that Plato had resisted Dio’s banish- 
ment, and had tried to get it rescinded). If we assume that the passage 
refers to Plato, then we shall have to assume the same of 502a : ‘ Who will 
doubt the possibility that kings or aristocrats may have a descendant who 
is a born philosopher ? ’ ; for the continuation of that passage is so similar 
to the previous one that they seem to refer to the same ‘ nobly-born char- 
acter This interpretation of 502a is probable in itself, for we must remem- 
ber that Plato always showed his family pride, for instance, in the eulogy 
on his father and on his brothers, whom he calls ‘ divine *. {Rep., 368a ; 
I cannot agree with Adam, who takes the remark as ironical ; cp. also the 
remark on Plato’s alleged ancestor Godrus in Symp., 2o8d, together with 
his alleged descent from Attica’s tribal kings ) If this interpretation is 
adopted, the reference in 499b-c to ‘ rulers, kings, or their sons which 
fits Plato perfectly (he was not only a Codride, but also a descendant of the 
ruler Dropides), would have to be considered in the same light, i.e. as a 

CHAPTER 8/NOTES 58-59 283 

preparation for 502a. But this would solve another puzzle. I have in mind 
AQQb and 502a. It is difficult, if not impossible, to interpret these passages 
as attempts to flatter the younger Dionysius, since such an interpretation could 
hardly be reconciled with the unmitigated violence and the admittedly (576a) 
personal background of Platons attacks (572-580) upon the older Dionysius. 
It is important to note that Plato speaks in all three passages (473^* 499 ^^? 
502a) about hereditary kingdoms (which he opposes so strongly to tyrannies) 
and about ‘dynasties’ ; but we know from Aristotle’s Politics^ I2g2b2 (cp. 
Meyer, GescL d. Altertums, V, p, 56) and i293ai i, that ‘ dynasties ’ are hereditary 
oligarchic families, and therefore not so much the families of a tyrant like 
Dionysius, but rather what we call now aristocratic families, like that of Plato 
himself. Aristotle’s statement is supported by Thucydides, IV, 78, and 
Xenophon, HelUnica, V, 4, 46. (These arguments are directed against 
Adam’s second note to 499 ^ 13 *) See also note 4 to chapter 3. 

* (2) Another important passage which contains a revealing self-reference 
is to be found in the Statesman, Here the essential characteristic of the royal 
statesman is assumed (258b, 292c) to be his knowledge or science ; and the result 
IS another plea for sophocracy : ‘ The only right government is that in which 
the rulers are true Masters of Science ’ (293c). And Plato proves that ‘ the 
man who possesses the Royal Science, whether -he rules or does not rule, must, 
as our argument shows, be proclaimed royal ’ (292e/293a). Plato certainly 
claimed to possess the Royal Science ; accordingly, this passage implies 
unequivocally that he considered himself a ‘ man who must be proclaimed 
royal This illuminating passage must not be neglected in any attempt to 
interpret the Republic, (The Royal Science, of course, is again that of the 
romantic pedagogue and breeder of a master class which must provide the 
fabric for covering and holding together the other classes — the slaves, labourers, 
clerks, etc , discussed in 289c, flf. The task of the Royal Science is thus 
described as that of ‘ interweaving ’ (blending, mixing) ‘ of the characters of 
temperate and courageous men, when they have been drawn together, by 
kingscraft, into a community life of unanimity and fiiendship ’. See also 
notes 40 (2) to chapter 5 ; 29 to chapter 4 ; and note 34 to the present 
chapter.) * 

In a famous passage in the Phaedo (89d) Socrates warns against mis- 
anthropy or hatred of men (with which he compares misology or distrust in 
rational argument). See also note 28 and 56 to chapter 10, and note 9 to 
chapter 7. 

The next quotation in this paragraph is from Republic, 489b /c. — ^The con- 
nection with* the previous passages is more obvious if the whole of 488 and 489 
is considered, and especially the attack in 4890 upon the ‘ many ’ philosophers 
whose wickedness is inevitable, i.e. the same ‘ many ’ and ‘ incomplete natures ’ 
whose suppression is discussed in notes 44 and 47 to this chapter. 

An indication that Plato had once dreamt of becoming the philosopher 
king and saviour of Athens can be found, I believe, in the Laws, 7043-7070, 
where Plato tries to point out the moral dangers of the sea, of seafaring, trade, 
and imperialism. (Cp. Aristotle, PoL, 13265-1 327a, and my notes 9-22 
and 36 to chapter 10, and text.) 

See especially Laws, 704d : ‘ If the city were to be built on the coast, and 
well supplied with natural harbours . . then it would need a mighty saviour, 
and indeed, a super-human legislator, to make her escape variability and 
degeneration,’ Does this not read as if Plato wanted to show that his failure 
in Athens was due to the super-human difficulties created by the geography 
of the place ? (But in spite of all disappointments — cp. note 25 to chapter 7 — 
Plato still believes in the method of winning over a tyrant ; cp. Laws, 7ioc/d, 
quoted in text to note 24 to chapter 4.) 

There is a passage (beginning in Republic, 498d/e; cp. note 12 to 

284 CHAPTER 9/notes 1-2 

chapter 9) in which Plato even expresses his hope that ‘ the many * may 
change their minds and accept philosophers as rulers, once they have learned 
(perhaps from the Republic ?) to distinguish between the genuine philosopher 
and the pseudo-philosopher. 

With the last two lines of the paragraph in the text, cp. Republic, 4736- 
474a, and 5i7a/b 

Sometimes such dreams have even been openly confessed. F. Nietzsche, 
The Will to Power (ed. 19 1 1, Book IV, Aphor, 958 ; the reference is to Theages, 
1 256/ 1 2 6a), wTites : * In Plato’s Theages it is written : Every one of us 

wants to be the lord of ail men, if it were only possible — and most of all he 
would like to be the Lord God Himself” This is the spirit which must come 
again.’ I need not comment upon Nietzsche’s political views ; but there are 
other philosophers, Platonists, who have naively hinted that if a Platonist 
were, by some lucky accident, to gain power m a modern state, he would 
move towards the Platonic Ideal, and leave things at least nearer perfection 
than he found them, ‘ . . men born into an “ oligarchy ” or “ democracy ” ’, 
we read (in the context this may well be an allusion to England m 1939), 
‘ with the ideals of Platonic philosophers and finding themselves, by some 
fortunate turn of circumstance, possessed of supreme political power, would 
certainly try to actualise the Platonic State, and even if they were not com- 
pletely successful, as they might be, would at least leave the commonwealth 
nearer to that model than they found it.’ (Quoted from A. E. Taylor, ‘ The 
Decline and Fall of the State m Republic, VIII ’, Mind, N S* 48, 1939, p. 31.) 
The argument in the next chapter is directed against such romantic dreams. 

* A searching analysis of the Platonic lust for power can be found in 
H. Kelsen’s bnlhant article Platonic Love {The American Imago, vol. Ill, 1942, 

pp. I ff.),* 

0 p» cit, 52oa-“52ic, the quotation is from 52od. 

Cp, G. B. Stern, The Ugly Dachshund, 1938. 


The motto, from Les Thibaults, by Roger Martin du Card, is quoted from 
P« 575 English edition {Summer igi 4 , London, 1940). 

^ My description of Utopian social engineering seems to coincide with 
that kind of social engineering advocated by M. Eastman in Marxism: is it 
Science? ; see especially pp. 22 ff. I have the impression that Eastman’s views 
represent the swing of the pendulum from historicism to Utopian .engineering. 
But I may possibly be mistaken, and what Eastman really has m mind may 
be more in the direction of what I call piecemeal engineering. Roscoe 
Pound’s conception of ‘ social engineering ’ is clearly ‘ piecemeal ’ ; cp. note 9 
to chapter 3. See also note 18 (3) to chapter 5. 

® I believe that there is, from the ethical point of view, no symmetry 
between suffering and happiness, or between pain and pleasure. Both the 
greatest happiness piinciple of the Utilitarians and Kant’s principle ‘ Promote 
other people’s happiness . seem to me (at least in their formulations) 
wrong on this point which, however, is not completely decidable by rational 
argument. (For the irrational aspect of ethical beliefs, see note 1 1 to the 
present chapter, and for the rational aspect, sections ii and especially iii of 
chapter 24). In my opinion (cp. note 6 (2) to chapter 5) human suffering 
makes a direct moral appeal, namely, the appeal for help, while there is no 
similar call to increase the happiness of a man who is doing well anyway. (A 
further criticism of the Utilitarian formula * Maximize pleasure ’ is that it 
assumes, in principle, a continuous pleasure-pain scale which allows us to 
treat degrees of pain as negative degrees of pleasure. But, from the moral 

CHAPTER 9 /NOTES 3-4 285 

point of view, pain cannot be outweighed by pleasure, and especially not 
one man’s pain by another man’s pleasure. Instead of the greatest happiness 
for the greatest number, one should demand, more modestly, the least amount 
of avoidable suffering for all ; and further, that unavoidable suffering — ^such 
as hunger in times of an unavoidable shortage of food — ^should be distributed 
as equally as possible.) There is some kind of analogy between this view of 
ethics and the view of scientific methodology which I have advocated in my 
The Logic of Scientific Discovery. It adds to clarity m the field of ethics if we 
formulate our demands negatively, i.e. if we demand the elimination of 
suffering rather than the promotion of happiness. Similarly, it is helpful 
to formulate the task of scientific method as the elimination of false theories 
(from the various theories tentatively proffered) rather than the attainment 
of established truths. 

® A very good example of this kind of piecemeal engineering, or perhaps 
of the corresponding piecemeal technology, are G. G. F. Simkin’s two articles 
on ‘ Budgetary Reform ’ in the Australian Economic Record (1941, pp. 192 ff., 
and 1942, pp, 16 ff.) I am glad to be able to refer to these two articles since 
they make conscious use of the methodological principles which I advocate ; 
they thus show that these principles are useful in the practice of technological 

I do not suggest that piecemeal engineering cannot be bold, or that it 
must be confined to * smallish ’ problems. But I think that the degree of 
complication which we can tackle is governed by the degree of our experience 
gained in conscious and systematic piecemeal engineering. 

* This view has recently been emphasized by F. A. von Hayek m various 
interesting papers (cp. for instance his Freedom and the Economic System, Public 
Policy Pamphlets, Chicago, 1939). What I call ‘Utopian engineering ’ 
corresponds largely, I believe, to what Hayek would call ‘ centralized ’ or 
‘ collectivist ’ planning. Hayek himself recommends what he calls ‘ planning 
for freedom *. I suppose he would agree that this would take the character 
of ‘ piecemeal engineering ’. One could, I believe, formulate Hayek’s 
objections to collectivist planning somewhat like this. If we try to construct 
society according to a blueprint, then we may find that we cannot incorporate 
individual freedom in our blueprint ; or if we do, that we cannot realize it. 
The reason is that centralized economic planning eliminates from economic 
life one of the most important functions of the individual, namely his function 
as a chooser of the product, as a free consumer. In other words, Hayek’s 
criticism belongs to the realm of social technology. He points out a certain 
technological impossibility, namely that of drafting a plan for a society which 
is at once economically centralized and individualistic. 

Readers of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom (1944) may feel puzzled by 
this note ; for Hayek’s attitude in this book is so explicit that no room is 
left for the somewhat vague comments of my note. But my note was printed 
before Hayek’s book was published ; and although many of his leading ideas 
were foreshadowed in his earlier writings, they were not yet quite as explicit 
as in The Road to Serfdom. And many ideas which, as a matter of course, we 
now associate with Hayek’s name were unknown to me when I wrote my note. 

In the light of what I know now about Hayek’s position, my summary of 
it does not appear to me to be mistaken, although it is, no doubt, an under- 
statement of his position. The following modifications may perhaps put the 
matter right. 

{a) Hayek would not himself use the word ‘ social engineering ’ for any 
political activity which he would be prepared to advocate. He objects to 
this term because it is associated with a general tendency which he has called 
‘scientism’ — the naive belief that the methods of the natural sciences (or, 
rather, what many people believe to be the methods of the natural sciences) 

286 CHAPTER 9/NOTES 5-6 

must produce similarly impressive results in the social field. (Cp. Hayek’s 
two series of articles. Scientism and the Study of Socieiyy Economical IX-XI 
1942-44, and The Counter-revolution of Science, ibid., VIII, 1941.) 

If by ‘ scientism * we mean a tendency to ape, in the field of social science, 
what are supposed to be the methods of the natural sciences, then histoncism 
can be described as a form of scientism. A typical and influential scientistic 
argument in favour of histoncism is, in brief, this : ‘ We can predict eclipses ; 
why should we not be able to predict revolutions ? ’ ; or, in a more elaborate 
form : ‘ The task of science is to predict ; thus the task of the social sciences 
must be to make social, i.e. historical, predictions.’ I have tried to refute 
this kind of argument (cp my The Poverty of Histoncism, and Prediction and 
Prophecy, and their Significance for Social Theory, Proceedings of the Xth Inter- 
national Congress of Philosophy, Amsterdam, 1948 ; now in my Conjectures and 
Refutations) , and in this sense, I am opposed to scientism. 

But if by * scientism ’ we should mean the view that the methods of the 
social sciences are, to a very considerable extent, the same as those of the 
natural sciences, then I should be obliged to plead * guilty ’ to being an 
adherent of ‘ scientism ’ ; indeed, I believe that the similarity between the 
social and the natural sciences can even be used for correcting wrong ideas 
about the natural sciences by showing that these are much more similar to 
the social sciences than is generally supposed. 

It is for this reason that I have continued to use Roscoe Pound’s term 
‘ social engineering ’ in Roscoe Pound’s sense, which as far as I can see, is 
free of that ‘ scientism * which, I think, must be rejected. 

Terminology apart, I still think that Hayek’s views can be interpreted as 
favourable to what I call ‘ piecemeal engineering On the other hand, 
Hayek has given a much clearer formulation of his views than my old outline 
indicates. The part of his views which corresponds to what I should call 
‘ social engineering * (in Pound’s sense) is his suggestion that there is an urgent 
need, in a free society, to reconstruct what he describes as its ‘ legal framework 

® Bryan Magee has drawn my attention to what he rightly calls ‘ de 
Tocqueville’s superbly put argument ’ m Uancien regime. 

^ ® The problem whether or not a good end justifies bad means seems to 
arise out of such cases as whether one should he to a sick man in order to 
set his mind at rest ; or whether one should keep a people in ignorance in 
order to make them happy ; or whether one should begin a long and bloody 
civil war in order to establish a world of peace and beauty. 

In ail these cases the action contemplated is to bring about first a more 
immediate result (called ‘ the means ’) which is considered an evil, in order 
that a secondary result (called ‘ the end ’) may be brought about which is' 
considered a good. 

I think that m all such cases three different kinds of questions arise. 

{a) How far are we entitled to assume that the means will in fact lead to 
the expected end ? Since the means are the more immediate result, they will 
in most cases be the more certain result of the contemplated action, and the 
end, which is more remote, will be less certain. 

The question here raised is a factual question rather than one of moral 
valuations. It is the question whether, as a matter of fact, the assumed causal 
connection between the means and the end can be relied upon ; and one 
might therefore reply that, if the assumed causal connection does not hold, the 
case was simply not one of means and ends. 

Tins may be true. But in practice, the point here considered contains 
what is perhaps the most important moral issue. For although the question 
(whether the contemplated means will bring about the contemplated end) 
is a factual one, our attitude towards this question raises some of the most fundamental 
moral problems — the problem whether we ought to rely, in such cases, on our 

CHAPTER 9 /NOTE 6 287 

conviction that such a causal connection holds ; or in other words, whether 
we ought to rely, dogmatically, on causal theories, or whether we should adopt 
a sceptical attitude towards them, especially where the immediate result of 
our action is, in itself, considered evil. 

This question is perhaps not so important in the first of our three examples, 
but it is so in the two others. Some people may feel very certain that the 
causal connections assumed in these two cases hold ; but the connection may 
be a very remote one ; and even the emotional certainty of their belief may 
itself be the result of an attempt to suppress their doubts, (The issue, in other 
words, is that between the fanatic and the rationalist in the Socratic sense — 
the man who tries to know his intellectual limitations.) The issue will be 
the more important the greater the evil of ^ the means ^ However that may 
be, to educate oneself so as to adopt an attitude of scepticism towards one’s 
causal theories, and one of intellectual modesty, is, without doubt, one of the 
most important moral duties. 

But let us assume that the assumed causal connection holds, or in other 
words, that there is a situation in which one can properly speak of means and 
ends. Then we have to distinguish between two further questions, {b) and {c), 

(b) Assuming that the causal relation holds, and that we can be reasonably 
certain of it, the problem becomes, in the main, one of choosing the lesser of 
two evils — that of the contemplated means and that which must arise if these 
means are not adopted. In other words, the best of ends do not as such 
justify bad means, but the attempt to avoid results may justify actions which 
are in themselves producing bad results. (Most of us do not doubt that it 
is right to cut off a man’s limb in order to save his life.) 

In this connection it may become very important that we are not really 
able to assess the evils m question. Some Marxists, for example (cp. note 9 
to chapter 19), believe that there would be far less suffering involved in a 
violent social revolution than in the chronic evils inherent in what they call 
* Capitalism But even assuming that this revolution leads to a better state 
of affairs — how can they evaluate the suffering in the one state and in the 
other ? Here, again, a factual question arises, and it is again our duty not 
to over-estimate our factual knowledge. Besides, granted that the con- 
templated means will on balance improve the situation — ^have we ascertained 
whether other means would not achieve better results, at a lesser price ? 

But the same example raises another very important question. Assuming, 
again, that the sum total of suffering under * Capitalism ’ would, if it con- 
tmues for several generations, outweigh the suffering of civil war — can we 
condemn one generation to suffer for the sake of later generations ? (There 
is a great difference between sacrificing oneself for the sake of others, and 
between sacrificing others — or oneself and others — ^for some such end.) 

(r) The third point of importance is that we must not think that the 
so-called ‘ end ’, as a final result, is more important than the intermediate 
result, the ‘ means This idea, which is suggested by such sayings as * All 
is well that ends welT, is most misleading. First, the so-called ‘ end’ is hardly 
ever the end of the matter. Secondly, the means are not, as it were, super- 
seded once the end is achieved. For example, ‘ bad ’ means, such as a new 
powerful weapon used in war for the sake of victory, may, after this * end ’ 
is achieved, create new trouble. In other words, even if something can be 
correctly described as a means to an end, it is, very often, much more than 
this. It produces other results apart from the end in question ; and what 
we have to balance is not the (past or present) means against (future) ends, 
but the total results, as far as they can be foreseen, of one course of action 
against those of another. These results spread over a period of time which 
includes intermediate results ; and the contemplated ‘ end * will not be the 
last to be considered. 



^(i) I believe that the parallelism between the institutional problems of 
civil and of international peace is most important. Any international organiza- 
tion which has legislative, administrative and judicial institutions as well as an 
armed executive which is prepared to act should be as successful in upholding 
international peace as are the analogous institutions within the state. But 
it seems to me important not to expect more. We have been able to reduce 
crime within the states to something comparatively unimportant, but we have 
not been able to stamp it out entirely. Therefore we shall, for a long time to 
come, need a police force which is ready to strike, and which sometimes 
does strike. Similarly, I believe that we must be prepared for the probability 
that we may not be able to stamp out international crime. If we declare 
that our aim is to make war impossible once and for all, then we may under- 
take too much, with the fatal result that we may not have a force which is 
ready to strike when these hopes are disappointed. (The failure of the League 
of Nations to take action against aggressors was, at least in the case of the 
attack on Manchukuo, due largely to the general feeling that the League had 
been established in order to end all wars and not to wage them. This shows 
that propaganda for ending all wars is self-defeating. We must end inter- 
national anarchy, and be ready to go to war against any international crime. 
(Gp. especially H. Mannheim, War and Crime, 1941 ; and A. D. Lindsay, 
‘War to End War’, in Background and Issues, 1940.) 

But it is also important to search for the weak spot in the analogy between 
civil and international peace, that is to say, for the point where the analogy 
breaks down. In the case of civil peace, upheld by the state, there is the 
individual citizen to be protected by the state. The citizen is, as it were, 
a ‘ natural ’ unit or atom (although there is a certain ‘ conventional ’ element 
even in the conditions of citizenship). On the other hand, the members or 
units or atoms of our international order will be states. But a state can 
never be a ‘ natural ’ unit like the citizen ; there are no natural boundaries to a 
state. The boundaries of a state change, and can be defined only by applying 
the principle of a status quo ; and since every status quo must refer to an arbitrarily 
chosen date, the determination of the boundaries of a state is purely 

The attempt to find some ‘ natural ’ boundaries for states, and accordingly, 
to look upon the state as a ‘ natural ’ unit, leads to the principle of the national 
state and to the romantic fictions of nationalism, racialism, and tribalism. 
But this principle is not ‘ natural ’, and the idea that there exist natural units 
like nations, or linguistic or racial groups, is entirely fictitious. Here, if 
anywhere, we should learn from history ; for since the dawn of history, men 
have been continually mixed, unified, broken up, and mixed again ; and this 
cannot be undone, even if it were desirable. 

There is a second point in which the analogy jbetween civil and inter- 
national peace breaks down. The state must protect the individual citizen, 
its units or atoms ; but the international organization also must ultimately 
protect human individuals, and not its units or atoms, i.e. states or nations. 

The complete renunciation of the principle of the national state (a principle 
which owes its popularity solely to the fact that it appeals to tribal instincts 
and that it is the cheapest and surest method by which a politician who has 
nothing better to offer can make his way), and the recognition of the neces- 
sarily conventional demarcation of all states, together with the further insight 
that human individuals and not states or nations must be the ultimate concern even of 
inUmational organizations, will help us to realize clearly, and to get over, the 
difficulties arising from the breakdown of our fundamental analogy. (Cp. 
also chapter 12, notes 51-64 and text, and note 2 to chapter 13.) 

(2) It seems to me that the remark that human individuals must be 
recognized to be the ultimate concern not only of international organizations. 

CHAPTER 9 /note 7 289 

but of ail politics, international as well as * national ’ or parochial, has impor- 
tant applications. We must realize that we can treat individuals fairly, even if 
we decide to break up the power-organization of an aggressive state or ‘ nation ’ to which 
these individuals belong. It is a widely held prejudice that the destruction 
and control of the military, political and even of the economic power of a 
state or ‘ nation ’ implies misery or subjugation for its individual citizens. 
But this prejudice is as unwarranted as it is dangerous. 

It is unwarranted provided that an international organization protects 
the citizens of the thus weakened state against exploitation of their political 
and military weakness. The only damage to the individual citizen that can- 
not be avoided is one to his national pride ; and if we assume that he was a 
citizen of an aggressor country, then this is a damage which will be unavod- 
able in any case, provided the aggression has been warded off. 

The prejudice that we cannot distinguish between the treatment of a 
state and of its individual citizens is also very dangerous, for when it comes 
to the problem of dealing with an aggressor country, it necessarily creates 
two factions in the victorious countries, viz., the faction of those who demand 
harsh treatment and those who demand leniency. As a rule, both overlook 
the possibility of treating a stale harshly, and, at the same time, its citizens 

But if this possibility is overlooked, then the following is likely to happen. 
Immediately after the victory the aggressor state and its citizens will be treated 
comparatively harshly. But the state, the power-organization, will probably 
not be treated as harshly as might be reasonable because of a reluctance to 
treat innocent individuals harshly, that is to say, because the influence of 
the faction for leniency will make itself felt somehow. In spite of this reluc- 
tance, It is likely that individuals will suffer beyond what they deserve. After 
a short time, therefore, a reaction is likely to occur in the victorious countries. 
Equalitarian and humanitarian tendencies are likely to strengthen the faction 
for leniency until the harsh policy is reversed. But this development is not 
only likely to give the aggressor state a chance for a new aggression ; it will 
also provide it with the weapon of the moral indignation of one who has been 
wronged, while the victorious countries are likely to become afflicted with the 
diffidence of those who feel that they may have done wrong. 

This very undesirable development must in the end lead to a new aggres- 
sion. It can be avoided if, and only if, from the start, a clear distinction is 
made between the aggressor state (and those responsible for its acts) on the 
one hand, and its citizens on the other hand. Harshness towards the aggressor 
state, and even the radical destruction of its power apparatus, will not produce 
this moml reaction of humanitarian feelings in the victorious countries if it 
is combined with a policy of fairness towards the individual citizens. 

^ But is it possible to break the political power of a state without injuring 
Its citizens indiscriminately ? In order to prove that this is possible I shall 
construct an example of a policy which breaks the political and military 
power of an aggressor state without violating the interests of its individual 

aggressor country, including its sea-coast and its main 
(not all) sources of water power, coal, and steel, could be severed from the 
^ate, and administered as an international territory, never to be returned. 
Harbours as well as the raw materials could be made accessible to the citizens 
of the state for their legitimate economic activities, without imposing any 
economic disadvantages on them, on the condition that they invite international 
commissions to control the proper use of these facilities. Any use which 
may help to build up a new war potential is forbidden, and if there is reason 
for suspicion that the internationalized facilities and raw materials may be so 
used, their use has at once to be stopped. It then rests with the suspect party 


to invite and to facilitate a thorough investigation, and to offer satisfactory 
guarantees for a proper use of its resources. 

Such a procedure would not eliminate the possibility of a new attack 
but it would force the aggressor state to make its attack on the internationalized 
territories previous to building up a new war potential. Thus such an attack 
would be hopeless provided the other countries have retained and developed 
their war potential. Faced with this situation the former aggressor state 
would be forced to change its attitude radically, and adopt one of co-operation. 
It would be forced to invite the international control of its industry and to 
facilitate the investigation of the international controlling authority (instead 
of obstructing them) because only such an attitude would guarantee its use 
of the facilities needed by its industries ; and such a development would be 
likely to take place without any further interference with the internal politics 
of the state. 

The danger that the internationalization of these facilities might be mis- 
used for the purpose of exploiting or of humiliating the population of the 
defeated country can be counter-acted by international legal measures that 
provide for courts of appeal, etc. 

This example shows that it is not impossible to treat a state harshly and 
its citizens leniently. 

* (I have left parts (i) and (2) of this note exactly as they were written 
in 1942. Only in part (3), which is non- topical, have I made an addition, 
after the first two paragraphs.) * 

(3) But is such an engineering approach towards the problem of peace 
scientific? Many will contend, I am sure, that a truly scientific attitude 
towards the problems of war and peace must be different. They will say 
that we must first study the causes of war. We must study the forces that lead to 
war, and also those that may lead to peace. It has been recently claimed, 
for instance, that ‘ lasting peace ’ can come only if we consider fully the ‘ under- 
lying dynamic forces ’ in society that may produce war or peace. In order 
to find out these forces, we must, of course, study history. In other words, 
we must approach the problem of peace by a historicist method, and 
not by a technological method. This, it is claimed, is the only scientific 

The historicist may, with the help of history, show that the causes of war 
can be found in the clash of economic interests ; or in the clash of classes ; 
or of ideologies, for instance, freedom versus tyranny ; or in the clash of races, 
or of nations, or of imperialisms, or of militarist systems ; or in hate ; or in 
fear ; or in envy ; or in the wish to take revenge ; or in all these things 
together, and in countless others. And he will thereby show that the task 
of removing these causes is extremely difficult. And he will show that there 
is no point in constructing an international organization, as long as we have 
not removed the causes of war, for instance the economic causes, etc. 

Similarly, psychologism may argue that the causes of war are to be found 
in ‘ human nature or, more specifically, in its aggressiveness, and that the 
way to peace is that of preparing for other outlets for aggression. (The 
reading of thrillers has been suggested in all seriousness — in spite of the fact 
that some of our late dictators were addicted to them.) 

I do not think that these methods of dealing with this important problem 
are very promising. And I do not believe, more especially, in the plausible 
argument that in order to establish peace we must ascertain the cause or 
the causes of war. 

Admittedly, there are cases where the method of searching for the causes 
of some evil, and of removing them, may be successful. If I feel a pain 
in my Toot I may find that it is caused by a pebble and remove it. But we 
must not generalize from this. The method of removing pebbles does not 

CHAPTER 9 /NOTES 8-9 29 1 

even cover all cases of pains in my foot. In some such cases I may not find 
‘ the cause ’ ; and in others I may be unable to remove it. 

In general, the method of removing causes of some undesirable event 
is applicable only if we know a short list of necessary conditions (i e. a list 
of conditions such that the event in question never happens except if 
one at least of the conditions on the list is present) and if ail of these con- 
ditions can be controlled, or, more precisely, prevented. (It may be remarked 
that necessary conditions are hardly what one describes by the vague term 
^causes’; they are, rather, what are usually called ‘contributing causes* ; as 
a rule, where we speak of ‘ causes * we mean a set of sufficient conditions.) 
But I do not think that we can hope to construct such a list of the necessary 
conditions of war. Wars have broken out under the most varying circum- 
stances. Wars are not simple phenomena, such as, perhaps, thunderstorms. 
There is no reason to believe that by calling a vast variety of phenomena 
‘ wars *, we ensure that they are all ‘ caused * in the same way. 

Ail this shows that the apparently unprejudiced and convincingly scientific 
approach, the study of the ‘ causes of war is, in fact, not only prejudiced, 
but also liable to bar the way to a reasonable solution ; it is, in fact, pseudo- 

How far should we get if, instead of introducing laws and a police force, 
we approached the problem of criminality ‘ scientifically i.e. by trying to 
find out what precisely are the causes of crime? I do not imply that we 
cannot here or there discover important factors contributing to crime or to 
war, and that we cannot avert much harm in this way ; but this can well be 
done after we have got crime under control, i.e. after we have introduced our 
police force. On the other hand, the study of economic, psychological, 
hereditary, moral, etc., ‘ causes * of crime, and the attempt to remove these 
causes, would hardly have led us to find out that a police force (which does 
not remove the cause) can bring crime under control. Quite apart from the 
vagueness of such phrases as ‘ the cause of war the whole approach is any- 
thing but scientific. It is as if one insisted that it is unscientific to wear an 
overcoat when it is cold ; and that we should rather study the causes of cold 
weather, and remove them. Or, perhaps, that lubricating is unscientific, 
since we should rather find out the causes of friction and remove them. This 
latter example shows, I believe, the absurdity of the apparently scientific 
criticism ; for just as lubrication certainly reduces the ‘ causes ’ of friction, 
so an international police force (or another armed body of this kind) may 
reduce an important ‘ cause * of war, namely the hope of ‘ getting away 
with it *. 

® I have#tried to show this in my The Logic of Scientific Discovery, I believe, 
in accordance with the methodology outlined, that systematic piecemeal 
engineering will help us to build an empirical social technology, reached by 
the method of trial and error. Only in this way, I believe, can we begin to 
build an empirical social science. The fact that such a social science hardly 
exists so far, and that the historical method is incapable of furthering it much, 
IS one of the strongest arguments against the possibility of large-scale or 
Utopian social engineering. See also my The Poverty of Histoncism. 

» For a very similar formulation, see John Carruthers* lecture Socialism & 
Radicalism (published as a pamphlet by the Hammersmith Socialist Society, 
London, 1894). He argues in a typical manner against piecemeal reform : 

Every palliative measure brings its own evil with it, and the evil is generally 
greater than that it was intended to cure. Unless we make up our minds to 
have a new garment altogether, we must be prepared to go in rags, for patch- 
ing will not improve the old one.* (It should be noted that by ‘ radicalism *, 
med by^ Carruthers in the title of his lecture, he means about the opposite 
of what is meant here. Carruthers advocates an uncompromising programme 

202 CHAPTER 9/NOTES 10-12 

of canvas-cleaning and attacks ‘ radicalism i.e. the programme of ‘ pro- 
gressive ’ reforms advocated by the * radical liberals This use of the term 
‘ radical ’ 1S3 of course, more customary than mine ; nevertheless, the term 
means originally ‘ going to the root ’ — of the evil, for instance — or ‘ eradicating 
the evil * ; and there is no proper substitute for it.) 

For the quotations in the next paragraph of the text (the ‘ divine original ’ 
which the artist-politician must ‘copy’), see Republic^ 5006/501 a. See also 
notes 25 and 26 to chapter 8. 

In Plato’s Theory of Forms are, I believe, elements which are of great 
importance for the understanding, and for the theory, of art. This aspect 
of Platonism is treated by J. A. Stewart, in his book Flat&'s Doctrine of Ideas 
(1909)9 128 ff. I believe, however, that he stresses too much the object of 
pure contemplation (as opposed to that ‘ pattern ’ which the artist not only 
visualizes, but which he labours to reproduce, on his canvas). 

Republic^ 520c. For the ‘ Royal Art see especially the Statesman ; 
cp. note 57 (2) to chapter 8. 

It has often been said that ethics is only a part of aesthetics, since ethical 
questions aie ultimately a matter of taste. (Cp. for instance G. E. G. Gatlin 
The Science and Methods of Politics ^ 315 ff.) If by saying this, no more is meant 
than that ethical problems cannot be solved by the rational methods of 
science, I agree. But we must not overlook the vast difference between moral 
* problems of taste ’ and problems of taste in aesthetics. If I dislike a novel, 
a piece of music, or perhaps a picture, I need not read it, or listen to it, or 
look at it. Aesthetic problems (with the possible exception of architecture) 
are largely of a private character, but ethical problems concern men, and 
their lives. To this extent, there is a fundamental difference between 
them. - 

For this and the preceding quotations, cp. Republic^ 50od~50ia (italics 
mine) ; cp. also notes 29 (end) to chapter 4, and 25, 26, 37, 38 (especially 25 
and 38) to chapter 8 

The two quotations in the next paragraph are from the Republic^ 541a, 
and from the Statesman, 2930-0. 

It is interesting (because it is, I believe, characteristic of the hysteria of 
romantic radicalism with its hubris — its ambitious arrogance of godlikeness) 
to see that both passages of the Republic — the canvas-cleaning of 50od, E, 
and the purge of 541a — are preceded by reference to the godlikeness of the 
philosophers; cp. 500c-d, ‘the philosopher becomes . . godlike himself’, 
and 540c-Hi (cp. note 37 to chapter 8 and text), ‘ And the state will erect 
monuments, at the expense of the public, to commemorate them; and 
sacrifices will be offered to them, as demigods, . . or at least as men who 
are blessed by grace, and godlike.’ 

It is also interesting (for the same reasons) that the first of these passages 
is preceded by the passage (49Sd/e, f. ; see note 59 to chapter 8) in which 
Plato expresses his hope that philosophers may become, as rulers, acceptable 
even to ‘ the many 

* Concerning the term ‘ liquidate ’ the following modern outburst of radi- 
calism may be quoted : ‘ Is it not obvious that if we are to have socialism 
— real and permanent socialism — all the fundamental opposition must be 
“ liquidated ” (i.e. rendered politically inactive by disfranchisement, and if 
necessary by imprisonment) ? ’ This remarkable rhetorical question is printed 
on p. 18 of the still more remarkable pamphlet Christians in the Class Struggle, 
by Gilbert Cope, with a Foreword by the Bishop of Bradford. (1942 ; for 
the historicism of this pamphlet, see note 3 to chapter i.) The Bishop, in 
his Foreword, denounces ‘ our present economic system ’ as ‘ immoral and 
un-Christian and^ he says that ‘ when something is so plainly the work of 
the devil, • . nothing can excuse a minister of the Church from working 


for its destruction Accordingly, he recommends the pamphlet * as a lucid 
and penetrating analysis 

A few more sentences may be quoted from the pamphlet, ‘ Two parties 
may ensure partial democracy, but a full democracy can be established only 
by a single party. . (p. i?)* — ‘ Iii the period of transition . . the workers 

must be led and organized by a single party which tolerates the existence 
of no other party fundamentally opposed to it. . (p. 19). — ‘Freedom 

in the socialist state means that no one is allowed to attack the principle of 
common ownership, but everyone is encouraged to work for its more effective 
realization and operation. . . The important matter of how the opposition 
is to be nullified depends upon the methods used by the opposition itself* 
(p. 18). 

Most interesting of all is perhaps the following argument (also to be 
found on p. 18) which deserves to be read carefully : ‘ Why is it possible to 
have a socialist party in a capitalist country if it is not possible to have a 
capitalist party in a socialist state ? The answer is simply that the one is 
a movement involving all the productive forces of a great majority against a 
small minority, while the other is an attempt of a minority to restore their 
position of power and privilege by renewed exploitation of the majority.* 
In other words, a ruling ‘ small minority * can afford to be tolerant, while a 
‘ great majority ’ cannot afford to tolerate a ‘ small minority *, This simple 
answer is indeed a model of ‘ a lucid and penetrating analysis *, as the Bishop 
puts it,*^ 

Cp. for this development also chapter 13, especially note 7, and text. 
It seems that romanticism, in literature as well as in philosophy, may 
be traced back to Plato. It is well known that Rousseau was directly influenced 
by him (cp. note i to chapter 6), Rousseau also knew Plato’s Statesman (cp. 
the Social Contract^ Book II, ch. VII, and Book III, ch. VI) with its eulogy 
of the early hill-shepherds. But apart from this direct influence, it is probable 
that Rousseau derived his pastoral romanticism and love for primitivity 
indirectly from Plato ; for he was certainly influenced by the Italian Renais- 
sance, which had rediscovered Plato, and especially his naturalism and his 
dreams of a perfect society of primitive shepherds (cp. notes 1 1 (3) and 32 
to chapter 4 and note i to chapter 6). — It is interesting that Voltaire recognized 
at once the dangers of Rousseau’s romantic obscurantism ; just as Kant was 
not prevented by his admiration for Rousseau from recognizing this danger 
when he was faced with it in Herder’s ‘ Ideas ’ (cp. also note 56 to chapter 
12, and text). 


This chapter’s motto is taken from the Symposium, 193d. 

^ Cp. Republic, 4iga, ff., 421b, 465c, ff., and 5190; see also chapter 6, 
especially sections II and IV. 

2 1 am thinking not only of the medieval attempts to arrest society, attempts 
that were based on the Platonic theory that the rulers are responsible for the 
souls, the spiritual welfare of the ruled (and on many practical devices 
developed by Plato in the Republic and in the Laws), but I am thinking also 
of many later developments. 

® I have tried, in other words, to apply as far as possible the method which 
I have described in my The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 

^ Cp. especially Republic, 5660 ; see also below, note 63 to this chapter. 

^ ^ In my story there should be ‘ no villains . . Grime is not interesting , . 
It is what men do at their best, with good intentions . . that really concerns 
us I have tried as far as possible to apply this methodological principle to 
my interpretation of Plato. (The formulation of the principle quoted in this 


note I have taken from G. B. Shaw’s Preface to Saint Joan ; see the first sentences 
in the section * Tragedy, not Melodrama 

® For Heraclitus, see chapter 2, For Alcmaeon’s and Herodotus’ theories 
ofisonomy, see notes 13, 14, and 17, to chapter 6. For Phaleas of Chalcedon’s 
economic equal itarianism, see Aristotle’s Politics^ 1266a, and Diels chapter 39 
(^Iso on Hippodamus). For Hippodamus of Miletus, see Aristotle’s Polittcs, 
1267622, and note 9 to chapter 3. Among the first political theorists, we 
must, of course, also count the Sophists, Protagoras, Antiphon, Hippias, 
Alcidamas, Lycophron ; Critias (cp. Diels ^ fr. 6, 30-38, and note 17 to 
chapter 8), and the Old Oligarch (if these were two persons) ; and Democritus. 

For the term^ ‘ closed society ’ and ‘ open society and their use in a 
somewhat similar sense by Bergson, see the Note to the Intn duciion. My 
characterization of the closed society as magical and of the open society as 
rational and critical of course makes it impossible to apply these terms without 
idealizing the society in question. The magical attitude has by no means dis- 
appeared from our life, not even in the most ‘ open ’ societies so far realized, and 
I think It unlikely that it can ever completely disappear. In spite of this, it 
seems to be possible to give some useful criterion of the transition from the closed 
society to the open. The transition takes place when social institutions are 
first consciously recognized as man-made, and when their conscious alteration 
is discussed in terms of their suitability for the achievement of human aims 
or purposes. Or, putting the matter in a less abstract way, the closed society 
breaks down when the supernatural awe with which the social order is con- 
sidered gives way to active interference, and to the conscious pursuit of 
personal or group interests. It is clear that cultural contact through civiliza- 
tion may engender such a breakdown, and, even more, the development of 
an impoverished, i.e. landless, section of the ruling class. 

I may mention here that I do not like to speak of ‘ social breakdown ’ in 
a general way. I think that the breakdown of a closed society, as described 
here, is a fairly clear affair, but in general the term ‘ social breakdown * 
seems to me to convey very little more than that the observer does not like 
the course of the development he describes. I think that the term is much 
misused. But I admit that, with or without reason, the member of a certain 
society might have the feeling that ‘ everything is breaking down There 
is little doubt that to the members of the ancien regime or of the Russian 
nobility, the French or the Russian revolution must have appeared as a 
complete social breakdown ; but to the new rulers it appeared very differently. 

Toynbee (cp. A Study of History, V, 23-35 ; 338) describes ‘ the appearance 
of schism in the body social ’ as a criterion of a society which has broken 
down. Since schism, in the form of class disunion, undoubtedly occurred in 
Greek society long before the Peloponnesian war, it is not quite clear why he 
holds that this war (and not the breakdown of tribalism) marks what he 
describes as the breakdown of Hellenic civilization. (Cp. also note 45 (2) to 
chapter 4, and note 8 to the present chapter.) 

Concerning the similarity between the Greeks and the Maoris, some 
remarks can be found in Burnet’s Early Greek Philosophy * especially pp. 2 
and 9. 

^ I owe this criticism of the organic theory of the state, together with 
many other suggestions, to J. Popper-Lynkeus ; he writes {Die allgemeine 
Nahrpflicht, 2nd ed., 1923, pp. 71 f.) : ‘ The excellent Menenius Agrippa . . 
persuaded the insurgent plebs to return ’ (to Rome) ‘ by telling them his 
simile of the body’s members who rebelled against the belly. . . Why did 
not one of them say : “ Right, Agrippa ! If there must be a belly, then we, 
the plebs, want to be the belly from now on ; and you . . may play the 
role of the members 1 ” ’ (For the simile, see Livy II, 32, and Shakespeare’s 
Coriolanus^ Act i, Scene i.) It is perhaps interesting to note that even a 


modern and apparently progressive movement like ‘ Mass-Observation ’ makes 
propaganda for the organic theory of society (on the cover of its pamphlet. 
First Yearns Work, 1937-38). See also note 31 to chapter 5. 

On the other hand, it must be admitted that the tribal ‘ closed society ’ 
has something like an ‘ organic ’ character, just because of the absence of 
social tension. The fact that such a society may be based on slavery (as 

it was the case with the Greeks) does not create in itself a social tension, 

because slaves sometimes form no more part of society than its cattle ; their 
aspirations and problems do not necessarily create anything that is felt by 

the rulers as a problem within society. Population growth, however, does 

create such a problem. In Sparta, which did not send out colonies, it led 
first to the subjugation of neighbouring tribes for the sake of winning their 
territory, and then to a conscious effort to arrest all change by measures 
that included the control of population increase through the institution of 
infanticide, birth control, and homosexuality. All this was seen quite clearly 
by Plato, who always insisted (perhaps under the influence of Hippodamus) 
on the need for a fixed number of citizens, and who recommended in the 
Laws colonization and birth control, as he had earlier recommended homo- 
sexuality (explained in the same way in Aristotle’s Politics, I272a23) as means 
for keeping the population constant ; see Laws, 74od-74ia, and %8e. (For 
Plato’s recommendation of infanticide in the Republic, and for similar problems, 
see especially note 34 to chapter 4 ; furthermore, notes 22 and 63 to chapter 
10, and 39 (3) to chapter 5.) 

Of course, all these practices are far from being completely explicable 
in rational terms ; and the Dorian homosexuality, more especially, is closely 
connected with the practice of war, and with the attempts to recapture, in 
the life of the war horde, an emotional satisfaction which had been largely 
destroyed by the breakdown of tribalism ; see especially the ‘ war horde 
composed of lovers *, glorified by Plato in the Symposium, i78e. In the Laws, 
636b, f., 836b /c, Plato deprecates homosexuality (cp., however, SsSe). 

® I suppose that what I call the ‘ strain of civilization ’ is similar to the 
phenomenon which Freud had in mind when writing Civilization and its 
Discontents. Toynbee speaks of a Sense of Drift {A Study of History, V, 412 ff.), 
but he confines it to ‘ ages of disintegration while I find my strain very 
clearly expressed in Heraclitus (in fact, traces can be found in Hesiod) — long 
before the time when, according to Toynbee, his ‘ Hellenic society ’ begins 
to ‘ disintegrate Meyer speaks of the disappearance of * The status of 
birth, which had determined every man’s place in life, his civil and social 
rights and duties, together with the security of earning his living ’ {Geschichte 
des Alteriums, III, 542). This gives an apt description of the strain m Greek 
society of the fifth century b.g 

* Another profession of this kind which led to comparative intellectual 
independence, was that of a wandering bard, I am thinking here mainly 
of Xenophanes, the progressivist ; cp. the paragraph on ‘ Protagoreanism ’ 
in note 7 to chapter 5. (Homer also may be a case in point.) It is clear that 
this profession was accessible to very few men. 

I happen to have no personal interest in matters of commerce, or in 
commercially minded people. But the influence of commercial initiative 
seems to me rather important. It is hardly an accident that the oldest known 
civilization, that of Sumer, was, as far as we know, a commercial civilization 
with strong democratic features ; and that the arts of writing and arithmetic, 
and the beginnings of science, were closely connected with its commercial 
life. (Cp. also text to note 24 to this chapter.) 

Thucydides, I, 93 (I mostly follow Jo wett’s translation). For the problem 
of Thucydides’ bias, cp. note 15 (i) to this chapter. 

This and the next quotation : op. city I, 107. Thucydides’ story of the 

296 CHAPTER IO/NOTES I 2 - 1 5 

treaclierous oligarchs can hardly be recognized in Meyer’s apologetic version 
{Gesch. L Altertums^ III, 594), in spite of the fact that he has no better sources ; 
it is simply distorted beyond recognition. (For Meyer’s partiality, see note 
15 (2) to the present chapter.) — For a similar treachery (m 479 b.c., on the 
eve of Plataea) cp. Plutarch’s Aristides, 13. 

12 Thucydides, III, 82-84. The following conclusion of the passage is 
characteristic of the element of individualism and humanitarianism present 
in Thucydides, a member of the Great Generation (see below, and note 27 
to this chapter) and, as mentioned above, a moderate : ‘ When men take 
revenge, they are reckless ; they do not consider the future, and do not 
hesitate to annul those common laws of humanity on which every individual 
must rely for his own deliverance should he ever be overtaken by calamity ; 
they forget that in their own hour of need they will look for them in vain,’ 
For a further discussion of Thucydides’ bias see note 15 (i) to this chapter. 

Aristotle, Politics, VIII, (V), 9, lo/ii ; 1310a. Aristotle does not 
agree with such open hostility ; he thinks it wiser that ‘ true Oligarchs should 
affect to be advocates of the people’s cause ’ ; and he is anxious to give them 
good advice : ‘ They should take, or they should at least pretend to take, the 
opposite line, by including in their oath the pledge : I shall do no harm to 
the people.’ 

Thucydides, II, 9. 

Cp. E. Meyer, Geschichte des Alteriums, IV (1915), 368. 

(1) In order to judge Thucydides’ alleged impartiality, or rather, his 
involuntary bias, one must compare his treatment of the most important 
affair of Plataea which marked the outbreak of the first part of the Pelopon- 
nesian war (Meyer, following Lysias, calls this part the Archidamian war ; 
cp. Meyer, Gesch. d, Altertums, IV, 307, and V, p. VII) with his treatment of 
the Melian affair, Athens’ first aggressive move in the second part (the war 
of Alcibiades). The Archidamian war broke out with an attack on democratic 
Plataea — a lightning attack made without declaration of war by Thebes, a 
partner of totalitarian Sparta, whose friends inside Plataea, the oligarchic fifth 
column, had by night opened the doors of Plataea to the enemy. Though 
most important as the immediate cause of the war, the incident is comparatively 
briefly related by Thucydides (II, 1-7) ; he does not comment upon the 
moral aspect, apart from calling ‘ the affair of Plataea a glaring violation of 
the thirty years truce ’ ; but he censures (II, 5) the democrats of Plataea for 
their harsh treatment of the invaders, and even expresses doubts whether 
they did not break an oath. This method of presentation contrasts strongly 
with the famous and most elaborate, though of course fictitious, Melian 
Dialogue {Thuc., V, 85-113) in which Thucydides tries to brand Athenian 
imperialism. Shocking as the Melian affair seems to have been (Alcibiades 
may have been responsible ; cp. Plutarch, Ale,, 16), the Athenians did not 
attack without warning, and tried to negotiate before using force. 

Another case in point, bearing on Thucydides’ attitude, is his eulogy 
(in VIII, 68) of the oligarchic party leader, the orator Antiphon (who is men- 
tioned in Plato’s Menexenus, 236a, as a teacher of Socrates ; cp. end of note 19 
to chapter 6). 

(2) E. Meyer is one of the greatest modern authorities on this period. 
But to appreciate his point of view one must read the following scornful 
remarks on democratic governments (there are a great many passages of this 
kind) : ‘ Much more important ’ (viz., than to arm) ‘ was it to continue the 
entertaining game of party-quarrels, and to secure unlimited freedom, as 
interpreted by everybody according to his particular interests.’ (V, 61.) 
But is it more, I ask, than an * interpretation according to his particular 
interests ’ when Meyer writes : * The wonderful freedom of democracy, and 
of her leaders, have manifestly proved their inefficiency.’^ (V, 69.) About 


the Athenian democratic leaders who in 403 b.c. refused to surrender to 
Sparta (and whose refusal was later even justified by success — although no 
such justification is necessary), Meyer says : ‘ Some of these leaders might 
have been honest fanatics ; . . they might have been so utterly incapable 
of any sound judgement that they really believed ’ (what they said, namely :) 

‘ that Athens must never capitulate.’ (IV, 659 ) Meyer censures other 
historians in the strongest terms for being biased. (Cp. e g. the notes in V, 
89 and 102, where he defends the older tyrant Dionysius against allegedly 
biased attacks, and 113 bottom to 114 top, where he is also exasperated by 
some anti-Dionysian ‘ parroting historians’.) Thus he calls Grote ‘an 
English radical leader and his work ‘ not a history, but an apology for 
Athens ’, and he proudly contrasts himself with such men : ‘ It will hardly 
be possible to deny that we have become more impartial in questions of 
politics, and that we have arrived thereby at a more correct and more com- 
prehensive historical judgemerit.’ (Ail this in III, 239 ) 

Behind Meyer’s point of view stands — Hegel. This explains everything 
(as will be clear, I hope, to readers of chapter 12). Meyer’s Hegelianism 
becomes obvious in the following remark, which is an unconscious but nearly 
literal quotation from Hegel ; it is in III, 256, when Meyer speaks of a ‘ flat 
and moralizing evaluation, which judges great political undertakings with 
the yardstick of civil morality ’ (Hegel speaks of ‘ the litany of private virtues ’), 

‘ ignoring the deeper, the truly moral factors of the state, and of historical 
responsibilities (This corresponds exactly to the passages from Hegel 
quoted in chapter 12, below ; cp. note 75 to chapter 12.) I wish to use this 
opportunity once more to make it clear that I do not pret